Escabeche (es-kah-BECH-ay) is usually associated with Mediterranean cuisine. It is not a recipe as much as it is a preparation. At its most basic it is fish marinated overnight or longer in something acidic before serving.
It is traditionally served cold or at room temperature on a hot day. The acid in the marinade is usually vinegar but can also include citrus juice or wine. Essentially it is pickling, but I hesitate to admit that because I don’t want any preconceived notions about pickled fish turning you away from this perfectly delicious recipe.
That said, there are versions of escabeche in many, many cultures. It is not always made with fish either. In Spain chicken, rabbit or pork versions are common.
There are examples in Pacific-Asian cuisine also. But the origin of the word escabeche is Persian. The idea was brought to Spain by the Arabs during the Moorish conquests. The word derives from al-sikbaj, the name of a popular meat dish that was cooked in a sweet and sour sauce, usually vinegar and honey or date molasses.
Today I take my cues for my version from Rick Bayless and have developed a pan-seared red snapper escabeche with decidedly Latin flavors.
I have gone bold too. My version has oregano and marjoram. Like Mr. Bayless’ recipe, I have included fruity apple cider vinegar and lots of spicy jalapenos too. I have opted to serve mine at room temperature after marinating overnight in the refrigerator. But his inspiration recipe is served warm. Either way is fine, but I think you will notice that the fish absorbs a lot of the escabeche flavor and it is worth planning this dish ahead of time to get as much umph as possible, IMHO…
Pan Seared Red Snapper Escabeche serves 2
- 1 boneless and skinless red snapper fillet, about 3/4 lb.
- 1⁄4 c olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
- 1 onion, sliced into 1/4‑inch slivers
- 1 carrot, cut into 1/4‑inch dice
- 3 clv garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 whole cloves
- 1⁄8 t freshly ground pepper
- 1 c chicken stock
- 2 T apple-cider vinegar
- 2 bay leaves, whole
- 3 sprigs fresh oregano, roughly chopped, plus whole sprigs for garnish
- 1⁄4 t dried marjoram
- 1 one-inch piece cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican canela
- coarse salt
- 2 large fresh or pickled jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced lengthwise
- parsley as a garnish
- corn tortillas
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
In a large, well-seasoned cast-iron or nonstick skillet, heat 1/4 cup oil over medium-high heat. Pat fish dry. Cook the fish, undisturbed until brown and no longer sticking to the pan, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn, and cook until the second side is brown and fish flakes, 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove to a plate, and set aside. Discard oil from pan.
Reduce heat to medium, and add remaining tablespoon oil. When hot, add onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until onions are translucent and carrots are almost soft about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine cloves and black pepper in a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder, and process until coarsely ground. Add to vegetables, along with stock, vinegar, bay leaves, oregano, marjoram, and cinnamon. Cover, and simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Season with salt, and stir in jalapeno strips. Cover until ready to proceed.
Arrange fish on a serving platter, and spoon escabeche over top. As it comes to room temperature the fish and vegetables will absorb much of the liquid. It may be served now, but it is even better if it is covered and refrigerated overnight. Bring it back to room temperature before serving. Garnish with sprigs of oregano and parsley and serve with warm corn tortillas and avocado slices.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD