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Ceviche Playero

Though I’d never claim that this is a traditional ceviche (in spite of the fact that it’s inspired by flavors from an exploration of the Oaxaca coast, near Huatulco), the sweet-smoky-tangy combination of tropical fruit, Oaxacan pasilla (or chipotle) chiles and grapefruit is just plain delicious. Mix in the soft texture of scallops and the crunch of jícama and red onion and you’ve got a total crowd-pleaser. If you’ve got a Mexican papaya, peel it with a knife, cut it in half and scrape out the seeds, then dice the fruit. For mango, simply peel it with a knife, cut the flesh from the pit (mango is a “cling-pit” fruit) and cut it into small pieces.

Working Ahead: Early in the day you’re serving, you can marinate the scallops, drain them, prepare the flavoring and chop the fruit. Store each preparation separately, tightly covered in the refrigerator. The ceviche can be finished, covered and refrigerated an hour or two before serving.

(Makes about 3 1/2 cups, serving 6 generously as a starter)

•8 ounces sea scallops, cut crosswise into thin slices (you can use small bay scallops, too, and simply cut them in half)
•1 cup fresh grapefruit juice
•1 large dried Oaxacan pasilla chile, stemmed OR 1 to 2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo
•4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
•2 tablespoons chopped piloncillo or dark brown sugar
•Salt
•2 cups diced fresh tropical fruit (I like a mixture of mango, the large Mexican papaya and pineapple—but you can vary it depending on what’s available)
•1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
•About 1 cup peeled, diced jícama

1. Marinate the scallops. In a small non-reactive bowl (glass or stainless steel are best), combine the sliced (or cut) scallops and the grapefruit juice. Cover and refrigerate for about 45 minutes to an hour while you’re putting together the remaining ingredients.

2. Prepare the flavoring. If using the Oaxacan pasilla chile, toast it in a small ungreased skillet over medium heat, turning them every few seconds for about a minute, until the kitchen fills with its smoky aroma. Cover with hot tap water and allow to rehydrate for about 30 minutes. If using canned chipotle chiles, simply remove them from their canning sauce and place in a blender.

In a small skillet over medium heat, roast the garlic, turning regularly, until soft and blotchy black in spots, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool and peel.

Drain the scallops; measure 2/3 cup of the juice and discard the rest.

If using Oaxacan pasilla chile, remove it from the water and place in the blender. Add the garlic, piloncillo (or brown sugar), reserved grapefruit juice marinade and 1 teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth. Pour in a bowl.

3. Finishing the ceviche. To the flavoring, add the fruit, onion and jícama. Stir in the scallops. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. You can refrigerate your ceviche for an hour or so before serving, or scoop it into small dishes or glasses and enjoy right away.

Reprinted from Fiesta at Rick’s: Fabulous Food for Great Times with Friends by Rick Bayless and Deann Groen Bayless. Copyright (c) 2010 by Rick Bayless. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.