Todo es escabechable
Everything can be made into escabeche. Fish? Escabechable. Chicken? Escabechable. Meat? Escabechable. You are vegetarian? No problem, your favorite vegetables are all escabechable. Todo es escabechable — everything can be made into escabeche, and here’s what you need to get your escabeche on.
First, we’ll define escabeche as a a pickled mixture of onions, vinegar, and honey that was traditionally used to preserve and add flavor to fried fish and meat. This technique was introduced to Spain by the Moors and brought to the Americas by the Spanish over 500 years ago. In Lima, the most popular escabeche is made with fish, and for the Peruvian touch we add hot peppers, of course.
The key to preparing a escabeche dish is to first cook your protein, then use the right stock to enhance the flavors of the protein, and then find the balance between the sweet, savory, and sour ingredients. Presenting, Escabeche de Pescado, a Peruvian pickled fish dish with spicy, smoky, and earthy aji panca, red onions, fish stock, honey, red wine vinegar, sweet potatoes, and lettuce, topped with an olive and hard boiled egg.
INGREDIENTS FOR FISH
- 1 lb. cod
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2-4 tablespoons cooking oil
INGREDIENTS FOR PICKLING SAUCE
- 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic paste
- 1 teaspoon aji panca
- 1 red onion, sliced into feathers
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon oregano
- 2 cups fish stock
- 4 teaspoons honey
- 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
INGREDIENTS FOR GARNISH
- 1 habanero pepper, julienned
- 8 lettuce leaves
- 1 egg, hard boiled, cut into quarters
- 1 sweet potato, peeled, cooked, cut into rounds
- 4 Kalamata olives
In addition to the ingredients above, you’ll need pots to cook the sweet potato and hard boiled egg, a skillet for the fish, a sauce pan for the pickling sauce, and a deep dish for letting the fish sit in the pickling sauce before serving.
PREPARATION FOR FISH
- Clean and cut the fish into 4 pieces, season with salt and pepper
- Coat each piece of fish with flour, shake off excess flour, and pan fry the fish in a skillet with 2-4 tablespoons cooking oil over medium to high heat
- Cook each piece until it’s a golden brown, about 4 minutes per side, or until fish is cooked through
- After cooking the fish, transfer the pieces to a deep dish and set aside
PREPARATION FOR PICKLING SAUCE
- Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat
- Sauté the onion, garlic paste, and aji panca for a few minutes
- Season with salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano
- Add the fish stock, and mix in the honey and red wine vinegar
- Add the bay leaf, reduce heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes
- Remove from heat, and let cool to room temperature
PREPARATION FOR ESCABECHE
- Pour picking sauce over fish in dish
- Toss the onions to mix well
- Let rest for one hour before serving at room temperature
- Periodically scoop sauce over fish
- Plate individual servings of fish over a bed of lettuce with cooked sweet potato rounds, scoop the sauce with onions over the fish, and garnish with hard boiled egg quarters and Kalamata olives
To make garlic paste, purée peeled garlic cloves with enough olive oil to create a smooth paste. Refrigerate the garlic paste in an airtight jar and use in a recipe as you would minced garlic.
Aji panca is a very traditional Peruvian hot pepper with an earthy color and smoky flavor that is very important in this dish. In San Francisco, you can pick up many Peruvian ingredients at Latino Markets such as Evergreen Market in The Mission District.
The key to the pickling sauce is to find the balance between spicy, sweet, and sour flavors. Use a light honey that has mild aromatics that won’t overwhelm the other flavors in the sauce. Use equal parts honey and red wine vinegar but taste the sauce and adjust if needed.