This is my follow-up report on my attempt to make a palatable escabeche. You may recall (or you may have clicked on that link, or possibly scrolled down to my previous post) that my attempt at this dish earlier this week didn't work out because I used the wrong fish. Nothing wrong with the brine, though, so I tossed the mahi I used and fried up a smelt and set it to soaking. That's the before picture to the right and the after picture below. The difference in color isn't from the lighting, the brine seems to have bleached the browned flour coating.
It's had three days to pickle so it's time to pull it out and see what's what. The far less mild flavor of the smelt, compared to the mahi, lets it stand up against the pickling brine, and the oily texture means it absorbs less as well. The flavor balance is now much better. The experience is fish enhanced by the spicy vinegary sauce rather than the sauce with some chewy chunks of vaguely fish-flavored stuff. The flour coating, of course, can't retain its crispness after absorbing moisture from the brine. But the smelt's bones stay crisp which adds a lot of texture to the dish. It's, overall, pretty darn good. So that was a classic Spanish-style preparation. Now I want to try the Cuban version I also found with the olives, capers and cider vinegar.