Another Word on Plating

Back to the food.  It was South America week last week, which involved such goodies as flank steak with chimichurri sauce and South American-style ceviche.  On the latter item, we were given an extra lecture on plating.  To wit, there IS such a thing as making something too beautiful to the point where no one wants to eat it.  Case in point, Sculptor’s final plate:

Chang's Seviche

Certainly pretty to look at.  But not only is it difficult to eat, what with the shells and all, but part of ceviche’s appeal (which is missing here), is the melding of the various types of seafood and flavorings in one single bite.  When you’ve got fish, shrimp, mussels, scallops, clams, tomato, onion, cilantro, parsley, serrano chile, and lime all sitting in a bowl “getting all happy” together (wow, that Emeril quote came out of nowhere and I think I just died a little inside writing it), you want your customer to experience that.  Just something to keep in mind.  And, for those occasions (bouillebaise comes to mind) where you want to leave the shells in, make sure that you run your paring knife underneath the meat so as to cut the little tendon that’s holding mussel/clam to the shell.  Just a bit easier.  As we’re reminded constantly, “American eaters are dumb.  They will eat anything, and I mean anything — bones, shells, whatever — that you put in front of them.”

(Sidenote on ceviche:  This was the first ceviche recipe I’d used where the shellfish was actually pre-cooked (as opposed to relying solely on the acid to half-cook the stuff), and it was really quite good, so it’s useful for those of you who are antsy, pregnant, or both.  Bring some fish stock with a few scallions to a simmer, then dunk your shrimp (shell-on) in for 40 seconds til cooked.  Remove the shrimp, and take the pot off the heat.  Throw in your scallops and let them hang out for a couple minutes until cooked through, i.e., opaque in the middle.  In a separate pan, place your in-shell stuff (mussels, clams) with a little white wine and cook over med heat until the shells open up.  Cool all shellfish immediately (preferably in an ice bath), chop up your veg/herbs, then mix the two together and let everything chill out in your fridge for 2-3 hours before service.)


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