mercredi, février 14, 2007

Eat this heart out

The majority of my Valentine's Day was spent at work; several tasks and scheduled appointments gathered together on Wednesday to create a tightly-packed sequence of stuff to keep me busy. Although it was mostly fine, the last thing I did that day involved a video-conference for a dissertation defence, where the Internet-based video-conference technology wouldn't connect to the other device in Chicago. The connection was finally made (for reasons that were not entirely clear), but not before a fair bit of drama.

The evening, however, was looking up. I was going over to a colleague's place for dinner, and I was bringing the anticuchos de corazón that I had been marinating since last night. Also, my colleague had bought a whole wild seabass, so we were going to make ceviche as well. I brought over the fixings for the ceviche to make at her place; when you're using fish with such tender and good-quality flesh, you don't really need to marinate it for any amount of time. It's more like tangy sushi.

The night itself was very pleasant, much great conversation, much delicious food (including mine, thank you very much) and a slightly hectic run to the métro to catch the last train. Rather than give details, here's my recipe for the ceviche and the anticuchos:

Ceviche de Corvina (White Sea Bass)


  • 15-30 limes (for 1-2 filets)
  • 2 bitter oranges (if unavailable, an underripe orange will work)
  • 2 red onions, medium, sliced into thin half-rounds.
  • 2 medium-sized hot peppers, finely diced (A mixture of red and green make it pretty). This is normally an ají limo or amarillo in Peru, but whatever's fresh and spicy
  • 1 tbsp of ginger, crushed, grated or finely diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • A handful of cilantro, chopped finely


  1. Cut the fish into 2cm cubes and soak in a bath of salted cold water while you prepare the rest of the mixture.
  2. Juice the limes and oranges, taking care not to over-squeeze the limes (that makes for bitter juice). Place in a large nonreactive (non-metal) bowl.
  3. Add onions, hot peppers, ginger, garlic and cilantro. Mix and salt to taste.
  4. Drain and pat dry the fish, add enough of the citrus mixture to cover the fish and mix.
  5. If the fish is fresh and tender (like corvina), wait a few minutes and then serve. If it's tough (like shark or octopus) marinate overnight. Soft fish will actually get firmer over time (as if it were cooked), while tough fish will tenderize over time.
  6. As an alternative preparation, you can slice the fish paper-thin, rather than in cubes. This creates something like tiraditos, which is the Peruvian equivalent of sashimi. However, your fish needs to be really fresh for the thin slices to work.

Anticuchos de corazón (tangy beef heart shish kabobs)


  • 1 beef heart (usually 1 - 2 Kg)
  • 2-4 cups of red wine vinegar (enough to cover)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of cumin (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 whole head of garlic (that's right), crushed or finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. of ají amarillo molido. If you don't have it, substitute a hungarian paprika.
  • 1 tablespoon of achiote (annatto). Not crucial to flavor, but adds the right color.
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  1. Cut the heart in half to expose the cavities and wash thoroughly, getting any clotted blood out.
  2. Trim fat and veins on the exterior, taking care to remove any hardened vessels that sometimes run along the outside.
  3. On the interior, trim away the tendons that criss-cross the cavities.
  4. Start making 1"-wide slices. To remove any remaining fat, fascia (membrane) or connective tissue, press the slice firmly against the cutting board (trimming-side down) and run the knife parallel to the board, about 1-2 mm away. This should remove a thin slice and leave the rest of the meat.
  5. Cut into 1" cubes. The cubes should consist of firm, dark red fatless meat.
  6. Toss in a nonreactive container (I like 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bags) and add all the other ingredients. Squeeze out as much air as possible and put in fridge overnight.
  7. 30 minutes before serving, place the cubes of meat on skewers and grill over a medium-high flame. Traditionally, you make another basting mixture out of oil and cumin and some other stuff, but I find it's just as easy to baste with the juices from the marinade. Watch out for the vinegar fumes, though!
  8. If you don't have a grill, you can also broil in the oven. Failing that, you can sear them in a lightly-greased pan and use the marinade to de-glaze.

As a reward for those of you who read all the way to the end of my posts, here's a link to an amusing anti-valentines cards website.

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