Yes, trash fish is on fire right now, and we got a big beautiful shot of a sea robin on the cover of our fall issue. But the fish is not just pretty, it tastes really good too. As Jerry Pluenneke found out when writing her story about sea robin, it can be made into anything, from bouillabaisse to ceviche. And she tried it all over a course of dinners. Here’s the ceviche recipe and a few pointers about how to clean the things.
Sea Robin Ceviche
Adapted from Rick Bayless’s Season 7—Mexico—One Plate At A Time and a favorite at Bayless’s Frontera Grill in Chicago for more than 20 years.
This got a thumb’s up from every one at every sea robin dinner, a great starter to serve with tortilla chips. (If you are pregnant, the CDC now gives a go-ahead for eating ceviche, if you freeze the fish for several days before thawing and preparing the ceviche.)
1 pound sea robin fillet— about two 1 3/4s pound fish
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lime juice, 8 to 10 limes
1 small white onion, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
Hot green chiles to taste (roughly 2 serranos or 1/2 large jalapeño) stemmed and roughly chopped
1/4 cup green olives
1 large (about 10-ounces) ripe tomato, cored, seeded, or an equivalent volume of sun gold tomatoes, halved.
1/4 cup (loosely packed) chopped fresh cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off)
2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
tortilla chips—purchased or homemade
“Cook” the fish in the lime juice. In a large stainless steel or glass bowl, combine the fish, lime juice and onion. The fish should float freely in the juice; if not, add a little more. Cover and refrigerate until the fish is as “done” as you like: An hour or so for medium-rare, 3 to 4 hours for “cooked” all the way through, which was my choice. Tip off the now fishy-tasting lime juice and discard.
Meanwhile, you can prepare the flavorings. Process the green chile and olives until finely chopped in a mini food processor (or finely chop by hand). No longer than two hours before serving, combine the fish along with the tomato, cilantro, chili and olive mix and olive oil. Stir well, then season with salt and sugar and refrigerate until the last minute before serving. Serve with tortilla chips.
Working Ahead: The fish can be marinated in lime and completely drained (even if you’re going to add back some of the juice) early in the day you’re going to serve it; cover tightly and refrigerate. All the vegetables and the cilantro can be prepped, mixed, covered and refrigerated early in the day, too.