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.

15 comentarios:

Anónimo dijo...

Brilliant! I love pretty much any fish and I'd love to try the escabeche! One day I'll be back in Spain.

xps dijo...

que rico!!!!!!

Lis dijo...

Ximena, this dish makes my mouth water. I love just about any fish and this preparation reminds me of how my father loved his fish. Thank you so very much for bringing this to the party - it's a perfect addition! =)

k dijo...

Sounds lovely. One question. When you say to leave it 2 days - refrigerated or not? Or will it matter? Gracias!!

Anónimo dijo...

Oh my! This sounds so intriguing and wonderful. I didn't know what escabeche was until I read this post. Can you send me some by air mail? No? I guess I shall have to come and visit you ...

lobstersquad dijo...

Tanna: great. I hope you do, there´s plenty of escabeches to try
xps: todavia tengo un poco...
Lis: thank YOU for the party
K: sorry, yes, refrigerated. The longest I´ve kept it is a week, but that´s because I wolf it down
Ivonne: you know, of course I´d rather have a visit, but technically, I could mail it. It´s supposed to be a preserve, after all. I´ll have to try the bain marie thing, and will let you know.

Anónimo dijo...

Reading this post made me immediately hungry for escabeche -- something I've never had but am now craving.

I'm also picturing this picnic where everyone swims, plays badminton, and picks grapes, and then has a wonderful meal of bonito en escabeche followed by peaches. I think about how perfect it sounds and also how I'm a little sad that this summer is over and that this perfect picnic will have to wait until next summer.

Anónimo dijo...

Hi Ximena,

This dish sounds tasty! For some reason I thought escabeche and ceviche were the same thing. Your post shed light on my misperception. See you at la festa...


lobstersquad dijo...

Julie: it sounds even better when you say it like that. in spain, summe ain´t over til it´s over, so I still have picnics ahead. we´re´in the middle of another heatwave, dammit!
Bruno: glad to have cleared that up. see you at the festa.

Lis dijo...

Ximena.. eek! We apologize so much for momentarily losing our minds! How we could forget to include this wonderful dish at the party is a complete mystery as I've been thinking about this preparation and how much I want to try it ever since I read it when you originally posted it! Please forgive us.. it was definitely not intentional in any way. =(

Anónimo dijo...


I don't know what to say! I am so so so so sorry that we left out your entry in the initial round up. I blame all the wine that we drank!

If you take a look at my blog today, you'll see that we've rectified the situation!

Karen Baking Soda dijo...

How I would love to have a painting like yours in my kitchen and/or diningroom, I love it! As Bruno I was thinking escabeche and ceviche were the same thing... Now I know! Thank you.

Anónimo dijo...

I can just taste this dish...yummmm. I also LOVE your illos. This beats looking at nothing but digital food pics, what artistic style!

Annie dijo...

Ximena, I wanted to let you know that I made this dish with salmon a few days ago (I also added some salt) and tried it today. It's wonderful! I love that it's so healthy and stores well so that I don't have to worry about eating it all quickly. I plan to make it as often as possible. Thanks for sharing it!

Anónimo dijo...

Great recipe for La Bonita Cedaro! Prepare a hot fire, place think bonita fillet (skin side down) on cedar plank.

Squeeeze lemon, lime and orage juices on fillet then sprikle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Top with sliced sweet onion and lightly sprinkle with cayenne pepper.

Place plank with filet above hot fire and allow to roast. As the plank heats it will release some flavor into the fish. Dependig on thickness of fillet cook until flaky.

Remove plank from fire with oven mitt, hold tightly and fling the fucking nasty bonita fillets into the woods. Eat the cedar plank.