Even though a ceviche is traditionally fish or shellfish marinated in lime juice with herbs and seasoning, this is a soupy version that I can’t resist including. Because the oysters are left raw, this ceviche captures the taste of the ocean in a way that’s lost if the oysters are cooked. The ingredients in this recipe are the same as those in a traditional Mexican or South American ceviche—tomatoes, hot peppers, lime juice, and cilantro.
Use small but flavorful oysters because some people don’t enjoy eating a bowl of large, fat raw oysters. Oysters from cold northern waters are best for this soup. Belons from Maine, Blue Point oysters from California, Japanese oysters, and small Cape Cod oysters are especially good for this recipe; all are small and have an intense briny flavor.
The base for this soup—without the oysters—can be made a day or two in advance, but the soup is best eaten the same day once the oysters have been added.
Combine all the ingredients in a stainless-steel or glass bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 or 2 hours to chill the soup and give the flavors a chance to blend. Serve the soup in cold bowls, making sure everyone has 5 oysters. Pass a basket of tortilla chips or sliced crusty French bread at the table, or if you want to be more formal, serve 1 or 2 toasted French bread slices on a small plate at the side of each bowl.
Try combining raw fish or shellfish with different vegetables, fruits, and herbs to invent an almost limitless number of variations. I sometimes make a French-style raw oyster soup by combining the oysters with 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives, 24 tarragon leaves (plunged into boiling water for 5 seconds, then rinsed in cold water), 2 peeled and seeded tomatoes, 4 drops Pernod, and a more or less generous drizzle of heavy cream.
© 2000 James Peterson. All rights reserved.