For all the times you’ve thought, wow I could totally go for [insert name of your favorite dish here] only to realize that it seems impossible to cook yourself at home, this series is for you. Cook Like A Restaurant is dedicated to giving you the recipes from the places and chefs you love and also the tricks to make it taste as close to their version as possible.
Next up is Gonzalo Guzmán, chef/owner of Nopalito and co-author, along with Stacy Adimando, of the James Beard Award-winning cookbook, Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen. Raised by a family of farmers in a rural village in Veracruz, Mexico, Guzmán started cooking at the age of six despite not having a refrigerator or electricity. After moving to San Francisco as a teenager, he spent nearly two decades working his way up in kitchens across the city until he eventually opened two locations of Nopalito.
At Nopalito’s Lower Haight location in San Francisco, Guzmán is currently taking advantage of the fish in season by serving this Tostada De Ceviche Nayarita. Inspired by a dish commonly served in Guzmán’s wife’s home state in Mexico, this refreshingly sweet, spicy, and citrusy ceviche can be made into dinner on its own or served at a party as an antojito or botana.
Ceviche is a simple crowd-pleaser in Guzmán’s family. “If you go to my house and I’m cooking dinner, you’ll see botanas on the table already. That’s the way I was raised,” he says. “Ceviche is a great botana that I can do really fast.” Here are some tips for recreating the dish perfectly at home.
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Don’t Use Just Any Tortillas
Whether you opt for chips or tostadas is a personal preference.
“People can [eat their ceviche] with chips, but if you want to make it more of a dinner experience and serve individually, then a tostada will make the most sense,” says Guzmán. “In the end, you’re eating the same ceviche.”
You can serve your ceviche with store-bought tostadas or chips (or salted crackers in a pinch), but Guzmán, who grew up walking an hour and a half to his family’s farm to tend to the cornfields every morning, always prefers homemade.
The Fresher The Ingredients, The Better
Quality ingredients go further than cooking technique for this dish, Guzmán explains. “[If] you’re somewhere where you cannot get really good sweet carrots from the market, at least make sure your fish is really fresh because that is what is going to save you,” he says.
Any White Fish Will Do
Don’t be afraid to change up the fish depending on what you can get your hands on. Guzmán isn’t swapping the fish in his ceviche at the restaurant as frequently at the moment (due to the COVID-19 pandemic), but he recently used lingcod and is currently serving snapper.
Go for the freshest white fish available as long as it’s lean, moist, and creamy. “If you don’t have access to really good snapper, you might have access to lingcod, rock cod, or halibut,” says Guzmán.
You can also stick to the Nopalito cookbook version of the recipe (Ceviche Nayarita de Camarón) and use shrimp. Guzmán says to chop it up if you want more crunch. He warns against trying calamari, however, as your ceviche won’t be the right texture.
Do A Sniff Test Before Buying Your Fish
Fresh fish is key, and, ideally, you should always know where your fish is coming from. That’s why Guzmán suggests going to a trustworthy fish market, if possible. “Smell the fish,” he says. “If it doesn’t smell fishy, then that’s already a good sign [that you’ll be fine] eating it raw.”
Only Cook The Fish Under One Condition
If you can’t guarantee the fish you’re using is top-notch, then cooking it is your best bet to avoid food poisoning. “You might want to cook your fish longer, with lime juice or however you want,” Guzmán says.
Use More Salt Than You Think
When it’s time to season the fish, channel your inner Salt Bae. “I always oversalt because when the cucumber starts releasing water, the water [dissolves] the salt,” Chef Guzmán said.
Give It A Taste Test
Make sure to throw the onions into the bowl first with the lime juice you’re using to marinate the fish (so the onions won’t oxidize as fast, Guzmán explains). Then, before adding the rest of the seasoning, Guzmán makes sure his line cooks try the dish. “I always have them taste the ceviche and tell them not to add any more salt until they taste it,” he says.
Add Spice To Your Taste
If you don’t have the time to make your own salsa piquin hot sauce, cheat and use one you already have (or omit it altogether).
“Everyone has some bottled salsa like Tabasco,” Guzmán says. “Honestly, you don’t even need any of that. I would just add more chiles because mainly what you’re looking for is to add some heat to the ceviche itself if it’s not spicy enough with the jalapeños.”
Pair With A Refreshing Drink
Ceviche wouldn’t be a proper botana without a drink to wash it down. Take things up a level with a Margarita or keep it simple like Guzmán. “That’s the whole tradition,” he says. “You drink a cold beer and a cocktail of your choice, but beer is my way.”
Nopalito's Tostada De Ceviche Nayarita
Makes 6 servings with leftover tortillas and leftover salsa
For the Homemade Tostadas
- 6 cups (1½ quarts) dried corn (about 2½ pounds)
- 12 cups (quarts) water
- 3 tablespoons calcium hydroxide (cal)
For the Ceviche
- 1 pound fresh white fish
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from 6 to 8 limes). Plus more as needed
- ¼ red onion, finely chopped
- 1¾ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
- ½ cup grated carrots, grated on the large holes of a box grater
- ½ cup finely diced cucumber, peeled if desired
- 1 to 3 serrano chiles or for less spicy jalapenos, finely chopped
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 2 tablespoons sliced green onions
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Tortilla chips, tostadas or salted crackers, for serving if not making homemade tortillas
For the Salsa
- ¼ cup dried pequin chiles, stemmed
- ¼ cup dried arbol chiles, stemmed
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 1 large clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons chopped white onion
- 1¼ cups distilled white vinegar
- 1 cup olive oil (not extra-virgin), or half olive oil and half rice bran oil
To Make the Homemade Masa:
- In a large pot, combine the corn, water, and cal; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
- Let boil for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat.
- Let the corn sit overnight at room temperature, at least 8 hours and up to 16 hours (if using yellow corn, the corn will have turned more yellow).
- Transfer to a colander and wash the corn under cold running water until all of the skins have come off and slipped away through the holes of the colander and the kernels look shiny.
- Using a molino de mano (hand-cranked corn grinder) or an electric corn grinder, grind the corn, pouring a little water over the corn as needed to get the mixture moving, and starting at a wide setting to help it slide through the grinder; as you continue, tighten the setting as much as you can. Repeat the grinding if necessary for a finer consistency.
- If making tortillas, you can grind the corn in a stone grinder (metate) to get an even more finely ground, smooth masa.
To Make the Tortillas With a Tortilla Press:
- Take the masa out of the fridge 15 to 30 minutes before working with it. For best results, use it within the first 24 hours of grinding it.
- Line the bottom of a tortilla press with a round of plastic, cut from a plastic bag.
- For a 5-inch tortilla form about 3 tablespoons of masa into a ball, then flatten the ball lightly into a disk.
- Place the disk atop the plastic-lined tortilla press.
- Line the top with another round of plastic. Lower the top half and press down on the handle, distributing your weight evenly across the press. Open the press and carefully separate the tortilla from the plastic.
- Preheat a griddle or skillet to medium heat and quickly wipe or drizzle the surface with a little oil. Add the tortilla and cook until slightly dried about 60 seconds. Continue to flip every 30 to 60 seconds until cooked through and puffing up with air, about 3 minutes total. (Do not overcook, as this can toughen the tortilla.)
To Make the Tortillas Without a Tortilla Press:
- Sandwich the masa round between two pieces of cut-out plastic on a clean work surface.
- Use the underside of a flat-bottomed plate, bowl, or pan to press and flatten the masa into a very thin round.
To Make Tostada Shells:
- You can make tostadas - the crispy tortilla base for this dish - one of two ways: by baking day-old, homemade corn tortillas (or store-bought tortillas right from the package) at low heat in the oven to dry them out, or frying them in oil in high heat.
- Alternatively, you can buy tostadas in stores and reheat according to the package directions.
To Bake the Tostada Shells:
- Preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Place the tortillas in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Bake until crispy, 20 to 30 minutes.
To Fry the Tostada Shells:
- To a medium frying pan, add enough rice bran oil or canola oil to reach ½ inch up the sides of the pan.
- Set a paper towel-lined plate next to the stove.
- Heat the oil to high heat (but not to the point where it’s smoking) and add the tortillas 2 or 3 at a time as space allows.
- Fry, flipping occasionally, until golden and crisp on both sides. Transfer to the prepared plate to drain.
To Make the Ceviche:
- In a large bowl, combine the fish, lime juice, red onions, and salt. Let sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the carrots, cucumber, chiles, cilantro, and green onions and stir to combine.
- Taste and adjust the lime juice and salt as needed
- Drizzle lightly with olive oil and serve immediately with the tostadas.
To Make the Salsa Piquin:
Makes 2 cups
- In a blender, combine all of the ingredients along with ¼ cup water; blend until very smooth.
- Strain through a fine-mesh strainer.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to several weeks.
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Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen
If you want to learn how to make more of Guzmán’s dishes from Puebla, Mexico City, Michoacán, the Yucatán, and beyond, be sure to buy this cookbook. It has 100 recipes that strike a balance between traditional and modern home-style cooking, from Tamales with Red Spiced Sunflower Seed Mole to Salsa-Dipped Griddled Chorizo and Potato Sandwiches.
8 in. Black Cast Iron Tortilla Press
To achieve the thinnest, most symmetrical tortillas, use a tortilla press.
Victoria Grain Grinder with Low Hopper
Enhance your tortilla-making skills with this molino de mano that grinds your corn as fine and smooth as possible for masa from scratch.
Get J.A. Henckels International Classic Chef Knife, 8 Inch
A sharp chef’s knife will come in handy to chop all your fresh produce and fish.
Kuhn Rikon"Swiss" Peeler
Peeling your cucumbers will be a breeze with this razor-sharp blade.
Cut-N-Carry Color Cutting Boards
These cutting boards conveniently come in different fun colors, perfect for avoiding cross-contamination from the fish.
Cuisinart Velocity Ultra Blender
Mix your salsa and Frozen Margaritas in this affordable high-powered blender.
The Classic Pan From Material
We love this all-around great pan that will ensure your tostadas are evenly fried.
2-Piece Chip and Dip
Showcase your colorful ceviche with a glass serving bowl.
East Fork Dinner Plate
If you decide to serve your ceviche as a main, these handmade earth tone plates will elevate your tostadas to dinner status.
Direction 17 oz. Pilsner Beer Glass
Throw back your favorite Mexican cerveza in a classic pilsner glass.