Oceana Magazine Summer 2012: Chef’s Corner: Gaston Acurio
With 32 restaurants in 12 countries, prolific Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio may be Latin America’s answer to Bobby Flay or Mario Batali. Acurio and his wife operate restaurants around the world, including the popular upscale global chain, La Mar Cebichería, which opened its doors in New York City last year. The restaurant specializes in ceviche, or “cebiche,” a Peruvian delicacy made from fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juice.
Acurio is dedicated to seafood sustainability, and in 2011, La Mar Cebichería announced a partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, pledging to source only sustainable seafood.
“Why do we cook?” Acurio asks. “To give pleasure to the people that could pay for our dishes? That’s it? Is that the only purpose of being a chef? Or do we have a larger responsibility? Can our skill, training, knowledge, influence, and recognition contribute to the sustainability of our food in the future? Or do we close our eyes, our kitchens, and our hearts to all of the challenges that are moving, right now, into our area of influence. As always, it’s just a matter of choice. We are not going to be better or worse people if we choose one or other way, but it’s time to choose.”
Leche de tigre
1 cup fresh lime juice from about 10-15
limes (the softest, juiciest available)
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
½ pc habanero pepper
4 ice cubes
¼ lb. striped bass scrap
1 cup cilantro leaves
½ cup red onion, roughly chopped
Salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and season to taste with salt. Set aside.
1.5 lbs sushi-grade striped bass, cut
into ½-inch cubes (all the scrap can be used for leche de tigre)
¼ cup fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
4 oz. red onion, sliced very thin
1 pc habanero, cut in half
½ tbsp. cilantro leaves
1 cup choclo (cooked Peruvian corn kernels)
2 lbs sweet potato, roasted at 375 until
soft, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup leche de tigre (see above)
Salt to taste
Rub the bottom of a large bowl with the cut sides of the habanero; slice the habanero and reserve for garnishing later. Add the cubed fish, ice cubes, a healthy pinch of salt and lime juice to the bowl and mix together. Add half of the sliced red onion, leche de tigre and sliced habanero. Mix well and check for seasoning – you may want to add more salt.
Serve the ceviche with the cut sweet potato and choclo in a large bowl or several small plates. Drizzle any extra leche de tigre over the fish and garnish with cilantro leaves.