I find that it can be difficult to get enough fish in my diet. Since fish is typically best purchased and prepared on the same day, it can be incredibly disappointing to arrive at the seafood counter and see fish that either you can’t afford or fillets so funky looking you can’t imagine they are still safe to eat. Sadly, the majority of grocery stores are peddling the lamest of the lame when it comes to seafood (not to mention mislabeling it, if you’ve been keeping up on the controversy). So this week, I decided to put an end to the madness.
My delightful local grocer here in Chicago has begun offering several fish choices each week, which you order in advance and pick up fresh on the day they are delivered. I set my sights on tender, flaky Barramundi, and I was emailed when the fillet arrived at the store. Brilliant!
I knew I wanted to prepare the fish while it was still very fresh, but I had other things in line for dinner this week. So, I made the perfect compromise and prepared it escabeche style. Escabeche is the perfect summer fish dish, not only because of its delicious Mediterranean flavors, but because it lasts a week or more in the refrigerator under the cover of its wonderful vinegary sauce. So FINALLY, I present fish that you can still eat (even next week)!
1 C. olive oil
1.5 pounds Barramundi Fillet (Snapper will work well, too)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 small carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into slices
4-5 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tsp. coriander seed
2 tsp. cumin seed
5 black peppercorns
1-2 serrano chiles, sliced (optional)
1 bay leaf
1 C. dry white wine
1 1/2 C. good quality white wine or red wine vinegar
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves only
Place the fish into a glass or ceramic dish. The dish needs to be only slightly larger than the fish, so that the sauce will cover the fish completely. If necessary, cut the fish into 3 or 4 pieces to fit into the smallest dish possible in a single layer. Sprinkle the fish with salt.
Warm a large saucepan over medium heat. Add just 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil and saute the onion and carrot for 3 or 4 minutes until the onion is translucent. Season generously with salt. Add the garlic and saute another minute. Then add the coriander, cumin, peppercorns, and chiles if using, and toast for another minute or two. Pour in the white wine, increase the heat and bring to a simmer. Add the bay leaf and rosemary. Now pour in the vinegar and the remaining olive oil. Stand back while this comes to a strong simmer. I don’t know if you have ever inhaled vinegar steam before, but consider yourself lucky if you haven’t.
Once the mixture is rapidly simmering, carefully pour the hot liquid over the fish, making certain it is fully covered. Let the liquid cool fully, about 45 minutes, and then cover the fish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours minimum or up to one week. It is important to keep the fish covered with the liquid at all times.
Serve your escabeche with rice or seasoned potatoes and a simple salad.
*A note to those who like their fish well done: This preparation will leave some thicker fillets (3/4” or thicker) slightly raw in the middle. If this is upsetting to you, I suggest buying thinner fillets (around 1/2” thick) OR searing the fish quickly on both sides before covering with the hot marinade if you must!