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 Pollo, a Peruvian pickled chicken dish with spicy, smoky, and earthy aji panca, red onion, carrot, celery, chicken stock, honey, and red wine vinegar.
INGREDIENTS FOR CHICKEN
- 4 chicken drumsticks, skin and bone on
- 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 carrot, julienned
- 1 celery stick, julienned
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon oregano
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 4 teaspoons honey
- 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
In addition to the ingredients above, you’ll need an ovenproof skillet to sear and bake the chicken, and a sauté pan to prepare the onion, carrot, and celery pickling sauce.
PREPARATION FOR CHICKEN
- Preheat the oven to 375°F
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper
- Heat cooking oil in a skillet over medium to high heat
- Sear and brown the chicken on all sides, turning every few minutes
- Remove skillet from heat and carefully remove excess oil from skillet
- Place skillet in oven and bake for 30-45 minutes, until chicken is cooked through
- Remove skillet from oven, leave chicken in skillet, and let cool to room temperature
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
- Mix in the carrot and celery, and continue to sauté another few minutes
- Add the chicken 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 chicken in skillet
- Toss the onion, carrot, and celery to mix well
- Let rest for one hour before serving at room temperature
- Periodically turn the drumsticks and scoop sauce over chicken
- Plate individual servings of chicken over a bed of lettuce with cooked sweet potato rounds, scoop the sauce with onion, carrot, and celery over the chicken, 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.