A few months ago Slideluck joined forces with Helen Hollyman and the Food Book Fair to produce the first event in our Parlor series, Food + The Underground, a panel discussion on underground supper clubs. One group of clandestine chefs, a couple operating under the name of de Porres, were kind enough to provide attendees with a sampling of their delicious Peruvian style ceviche.
Fast forward a month and a half; I’m still thinking about that ceviche. Alison and I made ceviche a few weeks ago while Casey and Suchan were out of the office. It was delicious, for sure, but it wasn’t what I remembered from that first citrusy slurp in May. It was more like yummy fishy chunky salsa with avocados.
I reached out to de Porres: “Please send me that wonderful ceviche recipe! It was so amazing I can’t get it out of my head!” They were a bit coy at, saying that the recipe doesn’t exist, that it’s made different every time. Trying to think of a way to grease the wheels, I added an invitation to lunch. It worked! Danielle told me she would send me the recipe in a week or so.
Now, I had meant for the events to be separate (send me the recipe for the dish you make so well, and I’ll make you a dish that I make very well), but when I mentioned the avocado tomato ceviche we made and my uncertainty about the authenticity of our version, Danielle immediately offered to give the Slideluck team a tutorial in proper technique one day. That day was today.
Danielle Bell and Pablo Osorio began operating de Porres from their Stuyvesant Heights apartment 15 months ago. Their menus are primarily based around traditional small plates of Peruvian cusine and followed up with desserts from the American South, although in their recent menus Danielle’s favorite Southern staples seem to be leaking into the entrée section (check out their Early Summer menu for their dinner this coming Sunday! They still have a few seats left). At the panel discussion they both struck me as incredibly passionate people, completely dedicated to the quality and experience of their craft, so I was really excited and a little nervous about the lesson.
Meal preparation began early in the morning (too early after printing in the darkroom until 3 AM). The key to ceviche is the quality and freshness of the ingredients used, so after reviewing the shopping list de Porres sent me, I headed up to my roof garden for cilantro and mint (for limeade!). Then it was off to Chelsea Market to check out the selection at Danielle’s recommended fish market, Lobster Place. Their recipe called for fluke, but at $18.95 a pound (and 8 mouths to feed) I had to compromise and go for 1 ¼ pounds of fluke and 1 ¼ pounds tilapia ($8.95 a pound). I consulted with Suchan; we decided we’d treat it like a taste test. I grabbed the remaining ingredients next door at the Manhattan Fruit Exchange and peddled my way over to the Slideluck HQ.
While I waited for Danielle and Pablo to arrive, I threw some yams in the oven and set myself on the task of squeezing the juice from 32 limes. Curiously missing from the Slideluck utensil rack is a lemon juicer, so I got to practice the lime cutting technique I picked up off of a box of citruses. The idea is that if you cut a lime or lemon more or less in thirds laterally, you’ll bet able to get more juice than from the standard cut-in-half technique. I haven’t really done a side by side by volume analysis, but it seems like you have better access to a greater surface area inside the lime this way. Either way it takes a long time to juice that many limes, and you should remember to always roll your citruses before you squeeze them!
The arrival of de Porres relieved me from citrus-land: I was still about 10 short of the recommended number but they said I had more than enough (maybe proof of the success of the thirds technique?). After some very quick introductions they set down to work, and I was able to take on mostly an observational role.
Pablo sliced the two fish differently: the tilapia was cut into chunks that were about ¾” square, while the fluke he cut a little larger, about 1” by 1½” strips. He set the most of the fish in two separate bowls, added some salt and half the lime juice, tossed them both, and put both sets in the fridge to marinate. If you slice your fish thinly enough, you should only have to marinate the fish for 5 minutes before it turns the correct shade of opaque.
In this small window of time we set about slicing the vegetables that garnish and flavor the dish. I’m a fan of sort of rough chopping everything, but it turns out that the other key to Peruvian ceviche is thinness in the veggies: Danielle diced the chili to superfineness, Pablo rechopped my celery cubes to be miniscule, and I got a lesson in Peruvian onion slicing (take an onion cut in half laterally and slice off both ends, the remove the skin and the very center of the onion. Proceed to slice the onion laterally as thinly as possible, following the curve of the onion. I would say that unless you have a very sharp knife, you may want to try slicing your ceviche onions on a mandolin). The chilis and celery were added to the other half of the lime juice with a bit of garlic, some peeled ginger (both also cut very fine), a few ounces of the fish, and blended well to create the leche de tigre (tiger’s milk, which it something like a broth to the ceviche).
While Pablo finished the veggies, Danielle had made up some strawberry mint limeade. First she took a bit of ginger and muddled it with a few tablespoons of sugar and then about half a pound of strawberries. She combined this with the juice of about 5 limes in a pitcher while I muddled the mint, then let the mixture sit for a few minutes.
And we were ready! Pablo added the onion and leche de tigre to the two fish bowls, Alison sliced up our roasted yams, Suchan and Daeha set the table, Danielle topped off the limade mix with Perrier, and I pulled the Brooklyn Pilsner out of the fridge. It was time to eat!
When all is said and done, both tilapia and fluke make INCREDIBLE ceviches. Paired with the sweetness of the yam, the whole palate made me think of sultry summer evenings with a light breeze coming off the ocean. Among us it was agreed that fluke was the favorite, it was less dense and somewhat sweeter over all, though as we ate it continued to ‘cook,’ and so ended up a little tougher towards the end. The tilapia maintained it’s texture, up wasn’t matched quite as well to the ingredients, though I don’t know that I would have noticed had I not had both in the same bowl.
Thank you de Porres for sharing your recipes and your afternoon with us! Check some more pictures here.
de Porres Fluke Ceviche
10oz fluke fillet skin off
1 small red onion
1 inch piece of peeled ginger
juice of 8 limes
1 garlic clove
1 celey stick
1/4 cup fish stock (optional)
2 tablespoons minced cilantro and a few extra leaves for garnish
spicy chili to taste (We prefer aji amarillo, most commonly found in South American markets, there are many in and near Jackson Heights Queens but Thai, scotch bonnet, or something similar can be used.)
coarse salt to taste
1 medium roasted sweet potato
Cut fluke into 1/2 inch squares
Use 8oz of fish for the ceviche. The remaining fish will make the leche de tigre.
For the leche de tigre, in a blender combine 2oz of fluke, ginger, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of chili, the juice of four limes, 1/4 small red onion chopped, 1/2 stick chopped celery. If using fish stock add that as well. Blend until smooth, pass through a fine strainer. Rest in a freezer while you make the ceviche.
In a bowl combine 1 teaspoon of salt to the juice of limes. Rub the fish with a little salt and add it to the lime juice mixture. Toss a couple of times and let sit in the fridge for five minutes. Slice what remains of the red onion thinly add to a small bowl of ice water and keep in the fridge. This will ensure the onion is crisp when added to the ceviche for garnish. Dice what remains of the celery. Chill two small bowls.
Once the fish looks opaque add the leche de tigre. Add the cilantro and celery. Use additional salt and minced chili to taste. Divide the ceviche into two small bowls. Top with red onions and whole cilantro leaves. Serve with roasted sweet potato.
Pairing: We love ceviche with Tokaji Furmint, Pilsner, and, of course, Pisco sours. Lemon limeade would make a great non alcoholic option.