Former Metro councilman Jeff Ockerman hit the big time when his recipe for scallop ceviche won the Chairman's Challenge recipe contest hosted by Food Network magazine.
According to Food Network editors, "We were swimming in seafood recipes after we announced that the secret ingredient for our February/March 2009 contest was citrus. We got 20 entries for orange salmon alone! But only one dish had judges talking Iron Chef: Jeff Ockerman's scallop ceviche."
Director of Health Planning for the State of Tennessee and an adjunct professor of law at Vanderbilt University, Ockerman got the nudge to enter the contest from his 83-year old mother.
"She handed me this magazine in mid-March after I drove her and my father back home from a Florida vacation, saying 'Here, this might interest you,' " Ockerman says. "Even though I decided on the recipe quickly, I was fairly analytical. I thought of three criteria that I'd use if I were a judge: When would the winning recipe likely be printed? What's an unusual dish that's easy to make? What unexpected ingredient would make the judges notice this recipe?
"The idea of a ceviche just popped into my head; it's an interesting-sounding dish and it's very easy--mainly chopping vegetables. I had some candied citrus peel in the fridge that I'd made earlier, and I thought putting something usually used for jams and baking in a scallops-vegetable dish would attract the judges' eyes. And because the lime juice makes it so acidic, I added the citrus syrup."
The complete recipe is posted after the jump.
Jeff Ockerman's Scallop Ceviche
1 pound bay scallops, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, or sea scallops, quartered and thinly sliced
3 medium oranges
8 to 10 limes
2 ribs celery, peeled and diced
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 yellow tomato, seeded and diced
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 cup chopped scallions
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Endive leaves or toasted bread slices, for serving (optional)
Spread the scallops in a single layer in a glass baking dish. Remove long strips of peel from 1 orange and 3 limes with a paring knife, being careful not to remove the white pith; set the peels aside. Juice the peeled fruit and the remaining oranges and limes to make 1 cup of each juice; pour into a bowl. Add the celery, onion, tomatoes, scallions, olive oil, 1/2 cup ice water, and pepper to taste; pour over the scallops. Cover and refrigerate until the scallops are opaque, 1 to 4 hours.
Meanwhile, make the candied citrus: Place the orange and lime peels in a saucepan of water; bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute, then drain. Boil in fresh water 2 more times; drain and set aside. Combine the sugar and 1 cup water in the saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and return the citrus peels to the pan; simmer for 45 minutes. Transfer the peels with a slotted spoon to a rack, reserving the syrup; let the peels cool, then slice into 1/4-inch pieces.
Drain the excess marinade from the ceviche. Add the cilantro and candied citrus peels, season with salt and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl and lightly drizzle with some of the reserved orange-lime syrup. Serve on endive leaves or with toasted bread, if desired.