If you’ve never prepared raw fish at home, this recipe for aguachile from chef Roy Ellamar of Harvest in Las Vegas is a great, low-key introduction. Aguachile is a type of ceviche that hails from Mexico's Sinaloa state. But while a typical ceviche is marinated in lime juice, which "cooks" the raw seafood in citric acid, aguachile is generally served immediately after the raw seafood has been dressed or submerged in an herb-seasoned lime-juice mixture, underscoring the freshness of the dish.
The most important step happens at the market, before you’ve even entered the kitchen: “Talk to the fishmonger and make sure that the fish is sashimi-grade,” says Ellamar.
It’s also important to buy fish that has been sustainably caught. “We don’t serve bluefin tuna, which is being depleted,” he says of his Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning restaurant, where this recipe features on summer menus. “The yellowfins from Hawaii are usually a good choice, and line-caught albacore coming out of Oregon is a very good choice as well.” But, he adds, he stays on top of what’s fair game and what’s not with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, whose online search tool makes it easy.
Always ask about freshness, he says, but also know the visual cues. “You don’t want to buy tuna that’s cloudy or muddy,” he cautions. “You want to buy something that’s really bright red, ruby in color.”
Temperature is key here too. “Fish is so delicate, you never want to expose it to warm temperatures longer than you need to,” he advises. “Keep the fish cold from the time you buy it to the time you get it home.” Ellamar likes to bring along a cooler with ice packs, but you can also ask your fishmonger to pack the fish with ice. Once you get home, put your fish in the fridge right away.
For a precise presentation, Ellamar recommends cutting the tuna when it’s still very cold and wetting a very sharp knife to do the job. “Sometimes the tuna is real sticky, and that’s to do with the fat content,” he says. “Wipe the knife blade with a wet towel first so that [the fish] doesn’t stick to the blade.”
Ellamar even chills the serving plates for his aguachile—but that’s less about food safety than it is about deliciousness. “I think all of those flavors are really nice when they’re really cold,” he says. On a hot summer day, we couldn’t agree more.
For more tips on how to approach pairing this dish with wine, recommended bottlings and notes on chef Roy Ellamar’s inspiration, read the companion article, "A Perfect Match: Tuna Aguachile With Rosé," in the June 30, 2018, issue, via our online archives or by ordering a digital edition (Zinio or Google Play) or a back issue of the print magazine. For even more wine pairing options, WineSpectator.com members can find other recently rated rosés in our Wine Ratings Search.
Recipe courtesy of Roy Ellamar
1. Using long, heatproof tongs, place 1 whole jalapeño on a gas burner or a grill, and set over medium heat. Cook, turning occasionally, until well-charred on all sides. Place pepper in a heatproof bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let sit 30 minutes to loosen skin. Wearing plastic food-prep gloves, transfer pepper to a cutting board. Trim the stem and gently rub to remove the skin. Remove the seeds, and small-dice the roasted pepper. Taste a very small piece; depending on your preference for heat, you may add more or less to the garnish.
2. To create the garnish, combine tomatoes, 1/2 cup cucumber, onion, red pepper, 1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro leaves only, mint leaves, 1/4 cup lime juice, 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Add roasted jalapeño to taste. Let the garnish marinate for at least 30 minutes, up to 2 hours.
3. Taste the raw jalapeño to gauge heat. To create the sauce, in a blender, combine remaining 1/2 cup cucumber, 1/4 cup cilantro stems and leaves, remaining 1/4 cup lime juice, raw jalapeño to taste, scallions and 3/4 cup ice water. Puree on high speed until smooth. Transfer to the refrigerator if hot. When cool, add olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and lime zest, stirring to combine. Add salt to taste.
4. Remove tuna from refrigerator. Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut into 1/8-inch thick slices. Place 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of sauce on each of four chilled small, rimmed plates, making sure that the sauce won’t submerge the tuna, and divide the tuna slices equally among the sauced plates. Sprinkle each slice with a pinch of sea salt and top with the garnish. Serve immediately. Serves 4 as an appetizer.