There are certain meals that every self-respecting Jamaican cook must know how to prepare, with his or her eyes closed, if need be. One such meal is escoveitch. Typically, escoveitch fish is reserved for fish but chicken can be used as well. I prefer fish – red snapper or king, but porgies or any type of fish that is suitable for frying can be used.
Escoveitch refers to a way of cooking, or more specifically marinating fish in a vinegar sauce. Also known as escabeche, it likely came to Jamaica by way of the Spanish.
Escoveitch fish is one of my favorite meals. It is also the only meal my mother taught me to make. I had picked up how to cook everything else, by osmosis I guess but was insecure about my escoveitch fish-making skills. Once I realized how simple it was, I made it over and over.
- 2 lbs. red snapper or king fish, cut is slices
- 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. whole black pepper
- 3 tsp. salt
- 1 medium Scotch bonnet pepper, cut in strips
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 1 tsp pimento berries
- 1/2 cup oil (for frying)
- 2 cups vinegar
- 2 limes or lemons
- 1 small chocho (chayote or christophene), cut in strips
- 1 small carrot, cut in strips
- Clean fish and wash thoroughly in large bowl with water and lime juice mixture.
- Dry fish, place on paper towels to absorb any remaining liquid.
- Mix black pepper and salt.
- Rub the fish lightly on both sides and on inside with salt and black pepper mixture.
- Put on paper towels.
- Heat cooking oil in skillet and fry fish on both sides until crisp and golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.
- Place fried fish into a glass dish.
- In a saucepan, add vinegar, onions, Scotch bonnet strips, pimento berries, chocho and carrot strips.
- Boil for 2-3 minutes then lower heat and let simmer until onions are soft.
- Remove and let cool.
- Pour marinade over fish and let cool overnight, or at least an hour. Marinating overnight allows the fish to absorb the flavors.
- Escoveitch fish can be served with a variety of starches - from rice to bammie (a cassava flat bread).
- Paper towels will keep the fish dry so that it doesn't pop when placed into the hot oil.
- Escoveitch fish can be made a day in advance.
I’ve yet to try escoveitch chicken. I can’t imagine how chicken stands up to being marinated in vinegar, what the flavors will be like, but I’ll post a recipe once I give it a try.
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