A while back, when I made shrimp escabeche, I wasn't entirely satisfied with the results. Oh, it was tasty enough, but my experiences with nanban zuke, the Japanese dish that evolved from escabeche, indicated that one important part of the dish was the interaction of the pickling vinaigrette and the yummy browned bits on fried fish. And since the shrimp was poached, it was lacking.
So, on a sudden whim I decided that today was the day to scratch that culinary itch and give fish escabeche a try. I chose this recipe, although if I hadn't already polished off my latest purchase of olives I would have made this one instead.
The procedure is pretty simple. First, skip the brining and just salt the pickling sauce. If you're going to let the fish soak for a while, it'll all work out the same.
Flavor the oil with the garlic, pepper and bay leaf.
Brown slices of fish.
Sweat the onion.
Cook down the sauce.
Combine and let sit in the refrigerator for a day or two.
It comes out looking nice (partially because I changed some settings on my phone-camera at my first attempt at deliberately making it look better than real life. Yes, my first food porn picture and it's still blurry. I think I need a proper camera if I'm going to keep this up.)
Mahi, it turns out, is definitely the wrong fish for the job. Something oily--swordfish or orange roughy, maybe sardines--would have both stood up better to the frying and had enough flavor to stand up to the vinegar and spices. The mahi turned into dry chewy bland fish-sticks. The pickling sauce I've got no complaints about. It's tart and rich and subtly spiced, but it needs something to bounce off of to work right.
I've got some spare smelt in the freezer. I'm going to fish out the mahi (I waited a day to do this and the mahi was much improved by the extra soaking time. The texture was a bit moister and flavors had become bright and citrusy. I'll have to give the smelt at least three days of pickling time to be fair.) and fry up a test smelt for some compare-and-contrast. Check back in with my in a few days for the results.