Jamaican Escoveitch Fish Recipe
Very popular as a breakfast dish in Jamaica, Escoveitch (say “escoveech”) Fish is one of my personal favorites and, YES, I also eat it for breakfast! It is delicious! But it can be served for any meal, from breakfast to late-night snack.
Undoubtedly evolving from the island’s Spanish settlers, “escoveitch” probably comes from “escabeche”, which is a Spanish seared and pickled fish dish. In Jamaica, pimento and vinegar are what give Escoveitch Fish its wonderful flavor.
My recipe calls for red snapper or tilapia but it’s great with almost any fish that can be fried, and you can also use small whole fishes with head and tail left on. In fact, that is how I always have mine – with the fishy looking back at me! I do, however, leave out the green peppers. I love them but they feel differently about me! Feel free to use the ingredients you like and leave out others. If you want it hot and spicy, add more Scotch bonnets (or habañeros).
3 pounds red snapper or tilapia filets (or fish of your choice)
2 or 3 limes
½ cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
About ½ cup oil for frying
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon oil
2 or 3 Scotch bonnet peppers (or habañeros), stemmed, seeded and cut into thin rings*
1 red bell pepper, finely julienned
1 yellow bell pepper, finely julienned
1 green bell pepper, finely julienned
2 carrots, julienned (cut into thin strips)
1 small chocho (chayote), cut into thin strips (usually found at Hispanic markets or substitute a firm zucchini)
1 large onion, sliced into thin rings
1 cup white or cider vinegar
½ cup water
12 whole pimento seeds (allspice berries) (or 1 teaspoon ground allspice)
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of salt
1. Rinse the fish with water and sprinkle generously with lime juice. Let sit for 20 minutes.
2. Pat fish dry and sprinkle each piece generously with salt, garlic powder and black pepper.
3. Pour the flour into a shallow bowl and dust each fish or filet lightly, shaking off excess. Set aside.
4. Heat about 1/2 inch of oil and the butter in a frying pan until hot (but not smoking) and fry fish until light golden brown and crispy (about 2 minutes per side).
5. Remove fish and drain on paper towels, then arrange in a single layer in glass or casserole dish (or on plates if you don't plan to marinate the fish).
6. Discard the oil.
1. In a non-reactive saucepan over medium heat, place a tablespoon of oil in the pan.
2. Add the onions, sweet and hot peppers, carrots and chocho and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the vinegar, water, pimento, sugar and salt, and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. You can remove the Scotch bonnet/habañero slices at this point or leave them in, whichever you prefer.
3. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm, about 20 minutes, then pour the marinade over the fish. (Make sure it’s not too hot or you will overcook the fish.)
4. You can serve the dish immediately or allow it to marinate for a few hours to absorb the flavors, but serve it at or near room temperature.
5. To serve, spoon the vegetables and sauce over the snapper, and accompany it with Bammy or Festival. Serves 6. Enjoy!
*Be very careful; do not rub your eyes after handling the Scotch bonnet or habañero peppers and wash your hands well afterward.