Recently, I was delighted to meet and cook with Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink restaurants located in Miami and the Cayman Islands. I was part of a small group taking a cooking class at studio b the beach in Alys Beach, which is owned by the beautiful and talented photographer Colleen Duffley. We made some wonderful dishes that day, but the one that stood out, was the fresh redfish escabeshe.
Escabeche is a classic Spanish preparation in which you sear fish or meat, then marinate it in a vinegar sauce until it’s pickled. Unlike ceviche, which is raw fish “cooked” in citrus juice, escabeche is cooked first. The bracing and acidic vinegar cuts through oily fish such as kingfish (also called king mackerel) herring or bonito just perfectly; and if you can find lionfish, it is a star. We used redfish, as the day prior Colleen had arranged for a fishing charter with Michael, which I regrettably had to miss. This super simple dish makes a light, flavorful starter that wakes up the taste buds and hits the spot on a hot day.
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 three ounce skin-on fish fillets (1 inch thick) or kingfish or mackerel fillets, skin removed
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 carrot, thinly sliced on a mandoline
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup sherry vinegar
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar
- 2 teaspoons mustard seeds, toasted
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 fresh thyme sprig
- 2 cups 1-inch diced ripe avocado
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Fresh cilantro leaves
- Combine the flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper on a plate.
- Dredge the fish fillets in the seasoned flour, tapping off the excess.
- Place a large skillet over high heat and coat with the vegetable oil. When the oil is shimmering, lay the fish fillets in the pan and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. You want a good sear, so don’t move the fish around, just let it do it’s thing. Turn the fillets over and sear the other side for another 2 minutes until just about cooked through.
- Remove the fillets to an 8 by 8-inch baking dish.
- Scatter the carrot, onion, and pepper on top of the fish and set aside.
- Place a small pot over medium heat and add the vinegar, 1/4 cup of water, agave, mustard seed, bay leaf, thyme, and remaining teaspoon of salt. When it reaches a boil, pour the marinade over the fish and cover with plastic wrap. Marinate at room temperature for at least 1 hour or up to overnight in the refrigerator. If chilling, bring to room temperature before serving.
- To serve, discard the thyme sprig and bay leaf. Divide the fish among 4 small plates and spoon the vegetables and their marinade on top. Scatter some chunks of avocado on top. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with cilantro leaves.