It was strange for me this summer working at a little beach restaurant called The Bungalow. I started there as a dishwasher, a job I took for the main reason of getting out of working at the local Dairy Queen. I’d been in that game for three years and could only flip so many more blizzards upside down without violently screaming. I hadn’t anticipated the extent to which I would enjoy kitchen work or how excited I would be when, after a few weeks of monotonous washing, the cooks finally began to give me various prep work tasks like shucking oysters or mincing shallots (the stuff they hated doing). With a fair bit of luck, I even got to run the “Hot and Cold” station for my last week of work.
At that station, I prepared and plated a variety of chilled seafood dishes like shrimp, oysters, and crab, but this tuna ceviche was by far my favorite thing to see on an incoming ticket. It gave me the opportunity to serve something a little more complex than just laying down six oysters on ice and seaweed. I got to take pride in carefully garnishing with thinly-sliced pink radishes and dabbing on bright green avocado mousse. It felt like the first real dish I made as a cook.
What you’ll need:
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (buy a dozen limes, to be safe)
1/2 serrano pepper—use gloves to handle the pepper since it can burn your skin
4 tablespoons dark tequila
1 tablespoon honey
One 4-centimeter “nug” of ginger
1 watermelon radish
1 cup ice
*You should get as much as you want to eat. The ceviche recipe results in about half to a whole cup more liquid than the initial amount of lime juice you use. You’ll only want to use around 1–2 spoonfuls of ceviche per handful of tuna, so adjust the recipe accordingly. You’ll probably end up with too much ceviche liquid in the end. I always do. Note: Since you’re not cooking with heat, we recommend you buy sushi-grade tuna to minimize the risk of killing someone.
For the ceviche:
Squeeze limes into a blender until you reach the one-cup marker (usually takes 6-7 limes). Remove the skin from the ginger and peel the cucumbers. Chop both coarsely and put in blender. Put on gloves. Cut the serrano pepper in half and remove the seeds, chop coarsely, and place in blender. Add tequila and honey.
To blend, start on low and then work your way up to high until you have a consistent, green mush. Slowly strain this mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl. Cover and place in fridge.
Ceviche may be prepared up to two days in advance.
For the garnish:
Peel and cut the radish into quarters. Slice thinly with a mandoline (if you do not have one, do the best you can with a sharp knife.) I usually align these slices and cut them into triangles, but perhaps you have your own idea for an interesting garnish. Whatever you decide, put the result in ice water and store in fridge.
Can be made up to two days in advance, if kept in water.
For the tuna:
Cut away the sinewy parts of the fish. Dice tuna into bite-size pieces. Cover and put in fridge.
For the mousse:
Squeeze the lime into a blender. Scoop out avocado from skin and put in as well. Add ice and blend. Salt to taste (it won’t need much). Store in a wrapped squeeze bottle. (If you don’t have one, a small cup could also work.) Put in fridge.
Wait as long as possible to the make the mousse. Depending on how you store it, it can turn brown quickly.
In a small bowl, mix tuna with 1/2 tablespoon of ceviche liquid and a heaping pinch-full of salt. Taste, and add more salt and/or ceviche as needed.
Plating this recipe is the best part. I like to place the dressed tuna in a line, dab in the avocado mousse throughout, and finish by standing up three watermelon radishes, but the options here are pretty much endless. Serve immediately.