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A Classic Escabeche Recipe

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Seared Fish with Marinade
Lew Robertson/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Escabeche (es-kah-BECH-ay) is a classic Spanish preparation in which you sear meat or fish, then marinate it in a vinegary sauce loaded with herbs and spices, then serve it cold or at room temperature on a hot day. It works perfectly with fish, especially oily fish such as mackerel, jacksmelt, herring or bonito. But any thinly sliced fish would work; I like to use porgies, walleye, trout, Pacific rockfish, or snapper.

Prep Time: 24 hours, 45 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 25 hours, 10 minutes


  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 mashed garlic cloves
  • 1 hot chile, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced into half-moons
  • 1 t. black peppercorns
  • 1/2 t. cumin seeds
  • 1 t. dried thyme leaves
  • 1 t. coriander seed
  • 1 T. dried oregano leaves
  • 1 cup fish or chicken broth
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 more bay leaves
  • 1 lb fish fillets, cut into 2-3 inch pieces


Combine the 1/4 cup salt with 4 cups of water, stir to combine and brine the fish in this mixture for 30-45 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the mashed garlic cloves, chile and 2 bay leaves. Cook these aromatics in the oil over medium heat until the garlic browns, about 4-6 minutes. Do not let the garlic burn. Remove the aromatics and discard.

Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook the fish. You want a good sear, so if the fish are not cooking hot enough, turn the heat all the way up to high. Sear each side of the fish for 1-3 minutes, depending on the thickness. You don't need to cook the fish all the way through.

Remove the fish to cool, then add the slivered onion, lower the heat to medium and cook until translucent. Remove to cool.

Now add all the remaining ingredients, turn the heat up to high and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce by half, turn off the heat and let cool.

When everything is at room temperature, pour the sauce into a container and add the fish and onions. Store in the refigerator overnight to let the flavors marry.

This fish will stay in good shape for a week or more, so long as it is covered by the vinegar sauce. Serve cool or at room temperature.

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