La festa al fresco: bonito en escabeche
I was very happy last week to receive an invitation from the so wonderful Ivonne to take part in a food event she and Lis are hosting.
It´s called La festa al fresco, and we all have to rally round and bring the best and freshest and most beautiful of summer produce to their table.
Of course the first thing to bring is a crate of the beautiful peaches and nectarines we´re having this year. I am in stone fruit heaven. All peaches so far have been excellent, ripe and juicy and so fragrant
But that´s by the way. My pièce de résistance is a beautiful jar of bonito en escabeche.
I do run on about bonito, don´t I? Well, it´s an awsome fish, you know, but you can use any other blue fish you want.
Escabeche is an old method for preserving meat or fish. I know you can find it in cans, but it tends to be dry and has none of the nuance of this dish. It´s ideal to take to an alfresco lunch in summer, because being more or less pickled, it won´t matter if it´s left standing around while you go grape picking, or swimming or playing badminton or whatever.
It took me forever to find the right recipe. I won´t bore you with the search, which was long. Basically, your elemental escabeche technique tells you to deep fry a fish, then pour over a sauce made of 4 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. Piecing together bits of different recipes, I arrived at this method. I don´t know how useful it would be if you mean to preserve the fish for long, but otherwise it´s awsome.
It has a lot of escabeche, the liquid, but that´s not a problem. Just think of it as the best possible vinaigrette for fish dishes. A salade niçoise dressed with it will bring tears to your eyes, I promise.
Here it is, anyway:
1 kilo of fish ( I´ve tried bonito, mackerel, trout, salmon and chicharro and they´re all good. If you do the salmon, use pieces from the tail, with the skin on)
3 carrots ( I cut them in batons, but do slices if you prefer)
2 leeks, coarsely chopped
5 or 6 whole cloves of garlic
a handful of pearl onions, or 1 onion in half moons
1 bay leaf
1 tsp peppercorns
1 sprig of thyme
1 cup each water, white wine, good vinegar and olive oil
plus a little olive oil
Take a wide mouthed non-reactive pan. Cover the bottom with the extra oil, and sautée the vegetables, herbs and pepper for about 5 minutes, until they´re a bit soft.
Add the liquids, and leave for 15/20 minutes at a brisk bubble.
Slide the fish in, making sure it´s covered by the escabeche. If it isn´t you can try to take out a few of the vegetables and then put them on top, or you can cover the pan so the fish will steam.
Turn the fire down, and leave it for a little less than you think it will take the fish to cook. For thick chunks of bonito I make it 7 minutes.
Leave the fish to cool inside the escabeche. The residual heat will finish the cooking, and if not, the vinegar will.
Keep it in a glass or earthenware container with a lid. Don´t keep it in plastic, as the vinegar might spoil it.
Refrigerate it for two days at least, so the flavours can develop, and serve at room temperature.
It´s heavenly with boiled potatoes, or in a salad of crunchy lettuce and avocado.