Chrisal felt inspired and blazed up the kitchen with a twist on a Jamaican favourite, Escovitch Lionfish. This is very meaty fish and perfect for soaking the spicy Escovitch pickling sauce. Lionfish is an invasive species that is known to cause damage to coral reefs. As such, there is an active campaign to get the public to consume more Lionfish.
Jamaican Escovitch Fish is a dish where a whole fish is fried until crispy and topped with a pickled vegetable medley. This medley usually consists of carrots, onions and sweet peppers. The addition of thyme, pimento berries and bay leaf really add a depth to the sauce and the use of sugar balances the acidity. This quick and easy dish is a welcomed change from the traditional Trini “stew fish” that can be enjoyed by all.
2 medium sized whole lionfish or red snapper (any meaty white fish will do) – cleaned and scaled.
1 lime or lemon
1 cup of cornmeal (optional for frying)
½ cup vegetable oil or more as needed
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon thinly sliced garlic about 2 garlic cloves
½ teaspoon ginger
1 yellow medium onion thinly sliced in rings
1 medium carrot Julienne
½ red bell pepper thinly sliced ( a green pepper will do)
½ yellow bell pepper thinly sliced
2 – 3 sprigs thyme
1 Scotch bonnet pepper
1 Bay leaf
4-5 teaspoon pimento berries (smash them a bit to release their flavour)
1- tablespoon sugar
¾ cup malt vinegar sub red wine vinegar
Freshly ground white pepper
All purpose seasoning ( or any seasonging of your choice)
Dry rub mix – white pepper, salt, paprika, garlic powder, ground ginger, mustard powder, onion powder and pimento powder
Old Bay seasoning (optional)
Salt and Pepper
Clean fish and soak in lemon and salt for about 30 mins. Rinse and pat DRY. Rub a little oil on it and then apply your dry seasoning of choice with salt and pepper – creole seasoning works well here . Ensure the fish is scored and generously apply the seasoning, making sure to season the belly of the fish as well. Apply the same dried seasoning to the cornmeal and lightly dust the fish after seasoning. Set aside.
In a large skillet or cast iron pan, heat oil over medium heat, until hot, add the fish, cook each side- for about 5-7 minutes (depending on the size of the fish) until cooked through and crispy on both sides. Remove fish and set aside. Reserve 1-2 teaspoons of oil and discard the balance. Remove any large particles/sediments.
Add, bay leaf, garlic and ginger, stir-fry for about a minute making sure the garlic does not burn
Then add onion, bell peppers, carrots, thyme, scotch bonnet, all spice-continue stirring for about 1-2 minutes. Add vinegar, sugar and stir. Adjust salt and pepper according to preference. Let it simmer for about 2 more minutes then remove from heat. Veggies should still be crunchy and let it set. The longer it stays the better the flavours marry.
Discard bay leaves, and pour mixture over fish. You can also let it sit for 5 mins so the sauce soaks the fish or dig in right away.