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Jamaican Escoveitched Fish

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Photo © bettybugger | BigStockPhoto.com

Escovitch Fish

Photo © bettybugger | BigStockPhoto.com
Escoveitched fish is a traditional Jamaican dish served for breakfast on the weekends and served with bammies (a type of fried cassava bread). However, you can enjoy this dish any time of day.

It’s similar to a ceviche, the difference being that the fish is fried, not raw. Sometimes escoveitched is spelled escovitch. It’s likely the origins of this dish are Spanish and it was introduced to Jamaica during the 16th century when the Spanish ruled the island. The word escoveitch is a corruption of the Spanish word escabeche, which is used to describe a dish as being pickled and pickling was a great way of keeping food from spoiling in the days of no refrigeration.

Cooks’ Notes:
* Typically, Jamaicans use scotch bonnet peppers, but you can use whatever type of chile pepper you like, or skip it if you don’t like the heat.
* If cane vinegar is not available in your area, substitute cider vinegar.
* Chayote is also called christophene, chocho, mirliton, xuxu and vegetable pear. If this ingredient is not available in your area, you can substitute a carrot or red bell pepper cut into thin strips.
* You can make this dish a day in advance.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

marinate : 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 small red snappers (cleaned, whole or filets)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 lemon (juice from)
  • 2 limes (juice from)
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil for pan-frying the fish
  • 1 1/2 cups cane vinegar (substitute cider vinegar)
  • 1 chile pepper (your choice, sliced into rings)
  • 1 chayote (cleaned, peeled, and cut into thin strips)
  • 2 small onions (sliced into rings)
  • 8 allspice berries
  • 6 whole peppercorns

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the water, lemon juice, and lime juice. Wash the fish thoroughly in this solution.
  2. Remove the fish from the solution. Pat dry with papers towels and then season it with the salt and ground pepper.
  3. In a skillet (cast iron works best), heat the vegetable oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Pan-fry the fish on both sides – approximately 3 to 5 minutes each side – until crisp.
  5. Remove the fish from the pan, drain, then place in a deep non-reactive pan. I like to use a 9x13 glass-baking pan. Depending on the size of the fish, you may have to use two.
  6. Make the marinade by placing vinegar, chile pepper, chayote, onions, allspice berries and peppercorns into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  7. Boil for 3 minutes and then lower the heat and simmer until onions are soft.
  8. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the marinade to cool off.
  9. Poor the cooled marinade over the fish and refrigerate for at least one hour. The longer it marinades, the better the flavor.
  10. When ready to serve, place the fish on a plate or platter, top with some of the marinated vegetables, and pour the marinade sauce over the top.
Serve with warm bammies and a tossed salad.

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