Puerto Rican Swordfish Escabeche
As you navigate the coastal roads of Puerto Rico, you’re bound to discover a beloved local delicacy: Fish Escabeche, a delectable pickled and marinated fish dish savored throughout the island.
The unique twist on this dish involves grilling swordfish steaks, departing from the more common fried fish preparation. The result is a smoky flavor that pairs perfectly with the tangy and tart vinegar used in the recipe.
The escabeche sauce relies on a combination of rice vinegar and honey, not only for preservation but also to introduce a delightful sweetness. Many locals prepare a batch of escabeche de pescado to enjoy during beach trips, embodying a quintessential Puerto Rican culinary experience.
Swordfish can be found in the waters surrounding Puerto Rico, especially in the deeper offshore areas of the Atlantic Ocean. Interestingly, swordfish are known to be more active at night, so many fishermen prefer to go fishing after dark. This involves setting up powerful lights on the boat’s surface to attract the fish to the surface.
Swordfish Escabeche Recipe
1/4 c. olive oil, plus more for coating fish
1 onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 c. dry white wine
1 c. rice vinegar
1/2 c. honey
1 t. black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper
2 -4 swordfish steaks
Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and peppers, cook until softened. Add wine, vinegar, honey, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, peppercorns and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then simmer 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, let fish come close to room temperature. Coat with olive oil and season with sea salt and ground pepper. Cook on the grill over medium-high heat for approximately 3 minutes per side. Remove from grill just before reaching 135°F.
Fit the swordfish steaks into a casserole dish. Pour the onion/pepper mixture over the top, submerging the fish. Let cool then cover and refrigerate 24 hours.
Remove swordfish dish from the refrigerator. Let warm up slightly, about 30 minutes at room temperature. Serve cool, but not cold, in order to better experience all the flavors.
Remove bay leaves. Ladle onion/pepper mixture and juices into shallow bowls. Top with a swordfish steak.
Serve limes and rice on the side.
And as many do, enjoy this Swordfish Escabeche with an ice cold Coke!
This recipe was adapted from Jose Enrique Puerto Rican Restaurant in San Juan, published in Food & Wine magazine where the Chef makes his dish with mackerel.