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Jamaican Escovitch Fish Recipe

Why It Works

  • Rinsing the fish nicely and rubbing throughout with lime earlier than patting the fish dry removes any lingering robust uncooked fish scent.
  • A brief simmering time for the escovitch sauce develops the signature pickle taste, whereas retaining a little bit of crunch with the added greens.

Whereas escovitch fish is acknowledged as a traditional breakfast dish in Jamaica, it’s really eaten all day lengthy—for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as a tasty cocktail social gathering snack. Whereas the normal preparation is made with smaller, complete fish, like snapper, nearly any fish may be handled in the identical method. The preparation is straightforward: The fish is first dusted in flour and fried, then the fish is roofed in a brine-like sauce or pickle referred to as escovitch. The pickle is made from cane vinegar, Scotch bonnet pepper, pimento (the Jamaican time period for allspice berries), onion, chayote, and carrot. The preparation’s origins are tied to Spanish influences on the island, on this case the Spanish pickled fish dish often called escabeche. The ultimate result’s a deeply satisfying savory fried fish with a tart and fragrant pickle poured over prime.

Critical Eats / Karina Matalon


Most of our recollections of escovitch fish are centered across the Easter holidays and our maternal grandfather, Gampi. On Good Friday in Jamaica, as in lots of international locations on this planet, there’s a robust custom of consuming solely fish. On today, escovitch complete fish is extraordinarily fashionable. Gampi liked escovitch fish a lot that he made this Friday fish a weekly custom in his residence. As per Gampi’s request, each Friday, our grandmother, Ma Ma, would make escovitch fish. She would put together it throughout the day and depart it out at room temperature on the stovetop, awaiting Gampi’s return residence. Our grandfather relished Friday afternoons, which signaled for him the top of a tough work week and a chance to unwind. Whereas he nursed his after-work rum and water, my grandmother would put together his early supper of escovitch fish and hardo bread unfold with Anchor butter. For Gampi, this meal that centered round escovitch fish was the joyous expertise that bought him in a festive and joyful temper for a weekend forward with household and mates.

The perfect a part of this Friday custom and meal for Gampi was all the time the fish head. The fish head is essentially the most cherished a part of the fish for many red-blooded Jamaicans, and is often saved for final. As younger ladies, we by no means fairly bought over seeing him suck out the eyes of the fish. Each time we refused to eat ours, as a result of we discovered them too “icky,” he was fairly joyful to take the additional fish heads off our palms.

Critical Eats / Karina Matalon


Whereas our recollections of this recipe are tied to a conventional “previous time” preparation for escovitch, the place it was all the time served at room temperature, the recipe has since advanced. What is often referred to as escovitch fish on trendy restaurant menus is served scorching. With our recipe right here, we lean into the trendy interpretation of the recipe; fried scorching fish that’s coated with the tart and fragrant escovitch pickle simply earlier than serving, whereas nonetheless providing the choice to serve at room temperature, as we bear in mind with MaMa’s preparation for Gampi. Whether or not served scorching or room temperature, this escovitch fish is certain to be loved.

Jamaican Escovitch Fish

The mixture of the savory fried fish and a tart and fragrant pickle makes for a fast and satisfying meal.

For the Fried Fish:

  • 4 8– to 10-ounce (225-285g) complete cleaned snapper or 4 6- to 8-ounce (170-230g) skin-on snapper fillets

  • 4 lime limes, halved

  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced

  • Kosher salt and freshly floor black pepper

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (32g)

  • 1 1/2 cups unrefined coconut oil, for frying

For the Escovitch Sauce:

  • 2 cups (473ml) white cane vinegar, resembling Grace model, or distilled white vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

  • 1 pinch kosher salt

  • 1 cup (100g) julienned chayote

  • 1 cup (100g) julienned carrot

  • 2 medium yellow onions (8 ounces; 227g every), thinly sliced crosswise into rounds

  • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, stemmed and thinly sliced both with or with out seeds (hold seeds if you’d like extra warmth)

  • 6 allspice berries

  1. For the Fried Fish: Wash fish nicely and rub throughout with lower floor of lime halves, together with inside cavity if utilizing complete fish. Pat dry. Utilizing a pointy knife, rating the pores and skin facet of the fish by chopping a collection of diagonal slashes by the pores and skin. Rub garlic throughout, then season frivolously with salt and pepper, together with contained in the fish cavity if utilizing complete fish.

    Critical Eats / Karina Matalon


  2. Unfold flour in a large, shallow dish. Dredge fish frivolously by dipping either side into flour after which shaking off extra.

    Critical Eats / Karina Matalon


  3. In a big forged iron skillet or stainless-steel sautè pan, warmth 1/2 inch oil over medium warmth till melted and shimmering. Gently add fish, pores and skin facet down, and fry till golden brown on first facet, 3 to 4 minutes.

    Critical Eats / Karina Matalon


  4. Fastidiously flip fish and prepare dinner till second facet is golden brown and flesh is opaque and flaky, 3 to 4 minutes. Utilizing a slotted fish spatula, fastidiously raise fish from oil and switch to paper towel-lined plate to empty. 

    Critical Eats / Karina Matalon


  5. For the Escovitch Sauce: In a 2-quart saucepan, convey vinegar, 1 cup (237ml) water, sugar, and salt  to a boil over medium warmth. Add chayote, carrots, onions, Scotch bonnet, and allspice berries, then return to simmer and prepare dinner for 3 minutes. Take away from warmth. 

    Critical Eats / Karina Matalon


  6. Switch fried fish to a rimmed heatproof platter or serving dish. Pour scorching escovitch sauce over fried fish. Serve scorching or let cool to room temperature earlier than serving. 

    Critical Eats / Karina Matalon


Particular Tools

Massive forged iron skillet or stainless-steel sautè pan

Notes

Chayote is a kind of squash that’s native to Mexico, however fashionable in Jamaican delicacies. The fruit is a member of the gourd household and it seems like a big pear, with a extra wrinkly backside. Search for a chayote squash that’s even in shade, agency, freed from blemishes, and on the smaller facet. 

These days, Escovitch fish is commonly served with fried bammy, an area cassava flatbread inherited from our Taino heritage.

Make-Forward and Storage

The escovitch pickle may be saved for as much as 7 days within the fridge. 

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