xmlns:fb='http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml' Jamaican Me Crazy Escovitch Fish

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jamaican Me Crazy Escovitch Fish

Last weekend my cousin Sam spent the day with me in my kitchen. I promised to make her baked lamb and fried rice if she assisted with the production of the final prep for this and the next post. We collaborated. She learned from me and I from her...and the gentle, beautiful soul that she is helped me put order where disorder reigned.... I wanted her in the kitchen with me for this escovitch fish recipe (not only to help with the mess) but because that’s her specialty, that’s what people request she bring when we have family gatherings. For our last New Year’s party at my cousin’s, I almost ate the entire tray of escovitch fish(what's new), including the unforgettable flavorful hot pepper (from her backyard garden) and onions that adorned the top. 

The first time I tasted this at her house I was skeptical when she told me that she only used salt and pepper to season the fish. I gave her an evil doubting look. I was in disbelief. This was surely laced with adobo or other seasoning salt, I shamelessly thought to myself. And I did this every time I ate her escoviche fish.....I wanted her here because I was intent on witnessing her prepare it first hand. [I now attest to the fact that the fish was indeed only seasoned with salt and pepper with an end result that was remarkably tasty.]

I am slowly learning to embrace minimalism in cooking. As cooks we always feel obligated to add everything including the kitchen sink into our pots to enhance flavor. A little pinch of this, a lot of that, and maybe some of this... with the expectation that if we add more, it will taste better. I've had to "unlearn"  that bad habit. I have had guilty desires to add many ingredients to the fish, but I've learned to accept it for what it is. "Stay calm. Keep it simple. Breathe. That’s how the Jamaicans do it...and they love it. Everything’s gonna be alright, Mon." With a lot of positive self talk like the aforementioned, I am on my way to recovery. [And yes, I am still talking about fish. I think.]

Two Trinis Jamaican Escovitch Fish
Serves 4-5

For Fish
4-5 whole small red snappers (about 2 pounds) (or Parrot /Croaker/porgies/king fish)
Salt (I used 2 teaspoons Himalayan salt)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Oil for frying (2 cups)
1 clove garlic
1 habanero
Juice of lemon or lime, for washing fish

For pickled vegetables
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1 carrot, julienned (thin strips)
1  hot pepper (habanero, scotch bonnet or congo pepper), sliced
½ sweet pepper (yellow and red), sliced [optional]
1 cup water****
1 cup vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tsp pimento seeds [optional]
A few sprigs of thyme (for garnish) [optional]

***decrease water to 1/2 cup if you prefer it more acidic. 

Make a day ahead
In a small saucepan add water, vinegar, salt, sugar, pimento and bring to a boil. Cook until salt and sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Add to onion, carrot, sweet pepper, hot pepper.  

Marinate several hours or preferably overnight.

Fry Fish
Wash fish with juice of a lemon or lime and water. Rinse several times removing any visible scales or other unwanted "innards". Do not soak too long or else the fish would start cooking. Dry fish using a paper towel. Cut a small gash on each side of the fish. Season inside and out liberally with salt and pepper.

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, then add oil. I used about 2 cups in my wide pan. Place a clove of garlic and 1 whole hot pepper in the pot.

When the oil is hot add fish, two at a time. Do not overcrowd pan—this is important to prevent the fish from sticking to the pot. Fry each side for 7-10 minutes until cooked and golden brown. When removing, drain fish with a slotted spoon at the side of the pot. Place fish on paper towels to drain. Allow the oil to reheat before adding the second batch of fish (about a minute). Repeat with remaining fish.

You know when the fish is done frying when two things happen 1. the loud sizzle that occurs when fish meets oil turns to a mere fizzle, use your ears...2. the big "bubbles" surrounding the fish gradually dissipates, use your eyes...

Alternately, for those of you who don’t like anything FRIED, drizzle a tablespoon or two of olive oil over fish and broil in the oven. 

Cook until fish is golden brown, turning midway, about 15-20 minutes total, more or less depending on your oven.

Pour pickled veggies including the liquid over the fish.
 [I don't use the liquid because of my awful sensitivities]... 
[Save any unused pickled vegetables in a jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks to eat with any and every thing...]

Serve and enjoy.

This fish is too simple to prepare, satisfying and delicious....! Hope you try it.....
Enjoy with the "salad" which I am posting soon...
Hint: See plated meal...can you guess the type of salad I served with this fish?
..and I am not referring to the green salad.....

Cooking with love,
for and with my family,

[pic of a tree in my backyard...taken a few weeks ago....soon there'll be no more green..or pinks...or pretty outdoor pictures...:-(]

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