Pickled fish has long been a mainstay in our culture. It was my father's favorite seafood snack. When my mother prepared this gem she always used kingfish steaks. Her reasoning was that this particular fish has one center bone, so one doesn't need to worry about bones sticking in your throat. If you don't want or can't find kingfish, swordfish may be substituted. This dish is unique in that it taste better the day after. The longer it marinates in a jar or bowl the more flavorful it becomes. When my mom prepared it back in the old neighborhood she made enough so that we had pickled fish sandwiches to last the entire week.
In my family we make escabeche either of two ways. In one method we first brown the fish steaks lightly. Then we cook the onions and remaining condiments in another skillet. Finally, we add the precooked fish to this sauce and simmer the whole thing over low heat for half an hour or so. The other more traditional way of making escabeche is to fry the fish steaks until they're done. Then, in the same or a different pan, we cook the onion sauce. In the final step we alternate layers of steak and sauce in a jar, and marinate till ready to eat. Both methods work equally well. In the recipe given we've used the second method, which is the most common for preparing escabeche Nuyorican style.
PESCADO EN ESCABECHE
8 kingfish steaks, 6 or 8 ounces each (can substitute swordfish steaks, if desired)
12 whole black peppercorns
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 cup vegetable or corn oil
3 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1. Rinse fish steaks and pat dry with paper towels.
2. In a mortar, crush peppercorns, 2 cloves garlic, oregano, basil and salt.
3. Rub fish steaks thoroughly with seasoning, and place in a bowl.
4. Combine 1/2 cup of the olive oil with 1 tablespoon of the vinegar, and pour over fish steaks. Cover bowl and place in refrigerator for 1 hour.
5. In a heavy saucepan or skillet, heat vegetable oil and lightly brown fish steaks over moderate heat on both sides. Reduce heat to low and cook the fish until done (about 15 minutes or so). Depending on how large the skillet, this may be done in batches. Drain on absorbent paper towels,
6. In a frying pan, heat the rest of the olive oil and add remaining garlic clove (crushed). Remove garlic when it is brown. Add onions, bay leaf and remaining vinegar. Cook on low heat until tender.
7. In a deep glass jar or dish, arrange alternate layers of onions and fish steaks. Make sure you begin and end with the onion sauce.
8. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator for 24 hours or more. Serve cold or at room temperature
Yield: 8 servings.