Thursday, February 20, 2014

Crispy Tilapia Escabeche Deconstructed




Escabeche translates to pickle in Spanish and is also used as the name of a popular fish dish poached with pickled vegetables.  Although the dish stems from Spain it has become a popular meal throughout the world.  From North African countries to Belize, Cuba, Chile, Central America, South America and the Philippines, all have their own version of Escabeche using the fish and vegetables from their region. Some call for the fish to be poached and others fried.  Some serve it cold and others warm.

In this version of Escabeche, I chose to deconstruct the dish.  Rather than having the fish cook with the pickled vegetables I decided to cook the fish and vegetables separately.  I first began with pickling onions, bell peppers, ginger and garlic in a sweet and sour mixture of coconut vinegar, agave and tomato paste.  I then fried tilapia fillets to a crisp and served the pickling sauce over the fish.

I like to eat this dish by itself, but it can also be served with rice on the side.

Servings: 2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

Vegetable Oil
1 Medium Red Onion julienned
1/2 Red Bell Pepper julienned
1/2 Yellow or Orange Bell Pepper julienned
1 Large Carrot peeled and cut into matchsticks
3 Garlic Cloves sliced
1 Inch Ginger Root sliced
3/4 Cups Coconut Vinegar
3 Tablespoons Sugar or Agave
1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
1 Cup Cornstarch
1 Tablespoon Wondra Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Pepper
1 Egg
1lb. Tilapia Fillets cut into 2 inch squares

In a large deep skillet, place two tablespoons vegetable oil over medium high heat.  Add the onions, bell peppers, carrots, garlic and ginger slices to the hot pan and stir fry the ingredients until the onions are soft (about 10 minutes).

In a small bowl, combine the coconut vinegar, sugar (or agave), and tomato paste.  Add a 1/2 cup water to the mixture and stir-in one teaspoon of the cornstarch until well combined.   Pour the vinegar mixture over the vegetables, stir,  and reduce the heat to a low simmer.  Let the sauce reduce by half  (about 8-10 minutes). Remove the skillet from heat and set aside.

This can be started while the vegetables simmer.  On a large plate or shallow bowl, add the cornstarch, wondra flour, baking soda, salt and freshly ground pepper.  Gently whisk the ingredients together until well combined.  In a small bowl, beat the egg and add about 1 tablespoon water to create an egg wash.

In another clean skillet place some vegetable oil over medium high heat (oil should be about 1/4 inch deep).  Dip each fish square into the egg wash then dredge it in the cornstarch combo to lightly coat the fillets on all sides.  In small batches, fry the fish in the oil until golden brown on all sides (about 25-30 seconds on each side). Transfer the cooked fish onto a plate lined with paper towel to allow the oil to be absorbed and the fish to crisp (for best crispness, I recommend placing the cooked fish on wire rack if available).

Reheat the sauce right before serving if necessary.  To serve place the fish fillets on plates and scoop the sauce with pickled vegetables to pour over the fish.  Can be served on its own or with a side of steamed jasmine rice.  Enjoy.

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