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5 Tips for Making Excellent Aguachile
Aguachile translates to “chile water,” and it refers to a simple way of serving raw fish, raw shrimp, or shellfish in a bath of lime juice spiced with chiles and herbs. Here’s how to ensure it turns out perfectly every time:
- Let the lime juice do the work. At no point do you need a stove or an oven—citrus alone can transform the proteins in raw seafood and in effect “cook” it; thanks to the lime juice, the fish will firm up and turn an opaque white.
- Go heavy on acid and salt. Aguachiles are all about the balance of salt and acid. Don’t be shy with either, and taste frequently as you prepare the sauce.
- Buy high-quality ingredients. In a dish involving so few ingredients, the integrity of each is crucial. The seafood you use should be very fresh and bought from a trustworthy, responsible fishmonger; the limes should be juicy and ripe for squeezing. If you’re adding avocado slices, ensure that they’re perfectly ripe.
- Choose your chiles wisely. Chiltepin, the finishing touch, is a very small, very hot chile from Sonora with a pungent, slightly smoky flavor. It’s available ground at Latin markets and online. You could also use chile piquín in place of the chiltepin if you prefer.
- Eat aguachile right away. This dish is at its prime the day it is made, so don’t make more than you intend to serve and eat.
Chef Gabriela Cámara’s Mexican Aguachile Verde Recipe With Shrimp
Serves4 to 6
- 575 grams medium, head-on, peel-on shrimp (or camarones), raw
- 2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more as needed
- 240 milliliters freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 8 limes, plus 1 to 2 additional limes)
- 60 milliliters shrimp stock*
- 120 grams red onion, julienned
- 10 grams parsley leaves
- 10 grams cilantro leaves, packed
- 8 grams chile serrano
- 300 grams cucumber, cut into thin rounds
- 1 teaspoon chiltepin or chile piquín
- Finishing sea salt
- 25 grams cold-pressed olive oil
- Totopos (deep-fried tortilla chips) for serving
For the shrimp stock:
- Heads and shells of shrimp (all that you get from your recipe)
- 470 milliliters water
- 50 grams onion
- 40 grams celery
- 8 grams parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- Prepare the shrimp: Remove the heads of the shrimp and set them aside to make the shrimp stock. Using a knife or your fingers, remove the shells and set them aside with the heads. With a paring knife, devein the shrimp by making a shallow incision down the middle of the shrimp’s back and removing the black vein with the tip of your knife. Discard the vein. Butterfly the shrimp and use your fingers or a knife to ensure that all of the meat is white and clean. Set the meat aside in a small bowl.
- Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the salt over the shrimp and stir to combine. Add enough lime juice to cover the shrimp and set aside to cure for 4–5 minutes while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
- Make the shrimp stock: Rinse the scraps of the shrimp to remove any blood or impurities. Simmer the scraps with about 470 milliliters of water and the onion, celery, parsley, and bay leaf (plus any other aromatics or vegetable scraps you’d like) for 20–30 minutes, skimming the surface occasionally with a wire skimmer. Once the stock is cooked, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve. Set ¼ cup of the shrimp stock aside, and store the remaining stock in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Pickle the onions: Place the onions in a small bowl, and sprinkle them with ½ teaspoon of salt. Add enough lime juice to barely cover the onions and quickly “pickle” them. The juice should turn pink when it hits the onions.
- Make the aguachile: In a blender, combine the shrimp stock, parsley, cilantro, and ½ of a serrano, along with the remaining lime juice and the juice that the shrimp has been curing in. Taste and, if necessary for acidity, squeeze an additional 1–2 limes into the blender. Blend until you have a smooth liquid. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
- Assemble: Pour the contents of the blender into a bowl. Arrange the shrimp on a serving plate skin side down so they can absorb more juices. Season the shrimp with a pinch of salt. Spoon the aguachile over the shrimp until they’re covered. Arrange the cucumbers on top of the shrimp, and garnish the dish with a few slices of pickled onion. Sprinkle with ground chiltepin or chile piquín and finishing salt. Drizzle with olive oil just before serving. Serve immediately with totopos on the side.
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