Rick's Seared Fish in Escabeche


In chef Rick Bayless's escabeche recipe, tangy fruit vinegar and water replace the richer, heavier flavors of wine and stock.


  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 6 five- to six-ounce boneless and skinless red snapper or halibut fillets, about ¾ inch thick (mahi-mahi, grouper, or salmon can also be used)

  • 1 large white onion, sliced ¼ inch thick

  • 3 medium carrots, cut into ¼-inch dice

  • 6 medium cloves garlic, quartered

  • 3 whole cloves

  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • 1 cup Homemade Chicken Stock Homemade Chicken Stock, skimmed of fat (or 1 cup water)

  • ¼ cup apple-cider vinegar

  • 3 dried bay leaves

  • Leaves from 6 sprigs fresh thyme, roughly chopped, plus whole sprigs for garnish, or 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

  • 1 two-inch piece cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican canela

  • Coarse salt

  • 3 to 4 large fresh or pickled jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced lengthwise


  1. In a large, well-seasoned cast-iron or nonstick skillet, heat 1/2 cup oil over medium-high heat. Pat fish dry. Working in batches if necessary, cook in a single uncrowded layer until brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn, and cook until second side is brown and fish flakes under firm pressure, 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove to a plate, and set aside. Discard oil from pan.

  2. Reduce heat to medium, and add remaining tablespoon oil. When hot, add onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent and carrots are almost soft, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine cloves and black pepper in a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder, and process until coarsely ground. Add to vegetables, along with stock, vinegar, bay leaves, thyme, and cinnamon. Cover, and simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Taste; season with salt (about 3/4 teaspoon), and stir in jalapeno strips.

  3. To serve warm, lay fillets over simmering escabeche, cover, and gently heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Place one fillet on each of six plates, and spoon some of the escabeche over each one. Garnish with sprigs of thyme. To serve cool, arrange fish on a deep serving platter, and spoon escabeche over. As it cools to room temperature, the fish and vegetables will absorb much of the liquid.

Related Articles