Escabeche and marinated fish
I had a dish at an Italian restaurant the other day combining marinated and poached fish (white fish, salmon, squid and some shellfish). I couldn’t work out which seafood would be marinated — I presume in lemon or lime juice — and which poached. Are there some guidelines as to when you do one and when the other? What are some ways you would combine these types of seafood as I’d love to play around with the combinations.
Thank you, Louise
As I don’t know exactly what you ate, or where you ate it, it’s hard to give a precise answer. Poached fish is something that most people will be familiar with. Marinating and pickling are both great ways to preserve fish and seafood and the addition of acid (vinegar, lemon or lime juice etc) is something that goes naturally well with such protein. If you were to suggest pickling meat it would sound slightly odd — although it can also be done well. But let’s talk kai moana today.
Marinated raw fish occurs in many cuisines — from the Pacific Islands' ika mata, through to Peruvian ceviche which is now found all over Central and South America as well as in Spain, Portugal and New Zealand. I’ve eaten sashimi in Japan that was actually "pickled" — briefly dipped in a yuzu soy sauce mixture, the acidity of the yuzu (an aromatic citrus fruit) pickling the fish, albeit briefly.
I like to cook gurnard, sardines and fresh anchovies "escabeche" style. I fillet them if large enough, dip in seasoned flour, deep-fry till cooked, then pickle in a mixture of 1 part white vinegar, 2 parts water, salt, pepper and sugar to taste, into which I’ve also added caramelised red onions that have been cooked with a few currants. The fish is cooked so it technically doesn’t need the acidity, but the combination of crisp oily fried fish preserved in sweet and sour liquid is the most delicious thing.
I also like to do another version of escabeche which also combines poaching and marinating — "hot-marinating". Take chunks of firm fish (hapuku, large snapper, best quality salmon), scallops, prawns or squid. Saute a few diced shallots in a wide pan in olive oil with some sliced garlic and little bit of fresh thyme on the stalk until just beginning to colour, but don’t let them caramelise. Move the shallots to one side and place the seafood in, giving it space. Don’t mix the seafood unless it’s of the same size and consistency — so you could do fish and prawns, but not scallops and squid. Quickly colour it on one side then turn over and colour again. Pour on enough liquid to barely cover it — made up of 1 part acid (white vinegar, lemon or lime juice, or a combination of all of them) and 2 parts boiling water plus any flavourings you’d like (a few crushed allspice, grated ginger, lemongrass, lime leaves, chillies). Bring to a simmer then turn off the heat and put a lid on the pan and leave it to cool. Turn the seafood over after 10 minutes (be careful as the chunks of fish may fall apart if the fish is flaky) and, once cooled, place in the fridge and leave to marinate for at least 6 hours. You can add these chunks of seafood to leafy salads, gently mix into a plain risotto just before serving (bring to room temperature first though), or drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a little smoked paprika, sprinkle on some diced peeled tomatoes and plenty of mint,basil or picked parsley and serve with toothpicks as a bar snack.
Another way to poach and marinate with a Southeast Asian twist is the following. Bring to the boil ½ cup soy sauce, ¼ cup lime or lemon juice, 1 cup water, 2 cloves chopped garlic, 1 Tbsp grated ginger, ½ red chilli, 2 star anise (or ¼ tsp fennel seeds), and 2 Tbsp sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add 2 cups equal-sized seafood (as described above) and bring to a simmer, gently stirring as it warms up. Leave to rest in the liquid for 5 minutes, then remove and serve on rice noodles or steamed tofu or rice, drizzling with some of the poaching liquid and scattering with plenty of shredded coriander and chopped fresh chillies.
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