Escabeche: The Best Make-Ahead, Post-Beach Dinner

June 18, 2015

We partnered with Alaska Seafood to show you an easy way to enjoy any whitefish like Alaska cod, black cod, sole, rockfish, and pollock.

Today: Make it in the morning, hit the sand, and return to dinner, ready à la minute.


Shop the Story

I am always on the prowl for beach day-friendly dinners, ones that will manage to feed all of the weekend guests who come to visit me in Maine in the summertime.

The easiest, of course, are lobster rolls or fried clams purchased road-side between the beach and my house. But sometimes, there are cranky children, too much sun in too many places, and the need for an immediate, post-beach cocktail.

So I’ve developed a rotation of mostly make-ahead, seafood-centric meals that come together while guests are either putting kids into their pajamas, washing away the day's sand, or making and pouring drinks. Included in that rotation are grilled shellfish with interesting dipping sauces, Peruvian ceviche, and an assortment of maki sushi—some with fish included, some not.

I’ve recently discovered a new dish that fits in just right with the others—Spanish escabeche. Like its distant relative ceviche, escabeche involves seafood and an acid, but the similarities end there. South and Central American ceviche is made with raw fish and citrus juice while Spanish escabeche involves cooling lightly fried fish in a bath of vinegary vegetable salad.  In Spain, you’re likely to see this dish made with small, whole fattier fish like sardines. I like to use white fish (Alaska cod, black cod, sole, rockfish, and pollock all work) in my adaptation on the traditional—it's a textural and visual contrast to the bright, crunchy vegetables.

And unlike the other dishes I regularly make that require fresh seafood to start, this one offers several ways to get ahead: the latitude to work with previously frozen fish, the flexibility to factor in eater preferences, and the freedom of not getting up at the crack of dawn to get to the fish market before heading out to the beach.

The process is simple: Lightly season and coat the fish in flour and then brown it in hot olive oil on both sides. Set aside the fish in a single layer in a non-reactive dish. Then wipe out the pan used for the fish, add a bit more oil, and very, very lightly sauté the vegetables and simmer them in vinegar for a minute. Pour that vinegary vegetable mixture over the fish, let it cool for a bit on the counter, cover it, and tuck it into the fridge while you’re at the beach. The flavors need to meld for at least 3 hours, but the ingredients can hang out together for as many at 12.

Finishing the prep for escabeche can be as easy at placing the dish in the middle of the table with a loaf of crusty bread. Or, you can stretch the dish by adding a few other things on the table and make these escabeche tacos

White Fish Escabeche Tacos

Serves 6

Six 6-ounce thin fillets white, flaky fish (Alaska cod, black cod, sole, rockfish, and pollock), cut into 3-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup flour, for dredging
3/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 large sweet onion, julienned
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 carrots, julienned
2 red bell peppers, seeded and julienned
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and julienned
1 cup sherry vinegar or good quality white vinegar
1 jalapeño or Fresno chile, seeded and sliced into thin rings 
2 bay leaves
6 allspice berries
1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley 
18 small corn or flour tortillas, for serving
Chopped fresh tomato, for serving
Sour cream or Greek yogurt, for serving

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

Alaska Seafood can be prepared using a range of techniques from smoking and grilling to roasting, sautéing, baking, or poaching. Try using this selection of recipes - and head here for additional ideas and cooking tips.

Order now

A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Marsha Gainey
    Marsha Gainey
  • ECS
  • cheese1227
I am an excellent eater (I have been all my life). I’m a pretty good cook (Ask my kids!). And my passable writing improves with alcohol (whether it's the writer or the reader that needs to drink varies by sentence.). I just published my first cookbook, Green Plate Special, which focuses on delicious recipes that help every day cooks eat more sustainably.


Marsha G. June 26, 2015
This was way too vinegary. If I were to make it again, I would reduce the white vinegar or give sherry vinegar a try. I also subbed 1/2 t. of powdered allspice for the berries. Trying to eat the dish inside tacos was crazy messy and soggy. It was better to just eat it off a plate. Even plated, serve it with sour cream or yogurt to cut the acridity. It is a gorgeous, healthy dish without a lot of work involved.
cheese1227 June 27, 2015
Sorry you didn't like the the level of vinegar. I do recommend sherry vinegar. Or maybe I white balsamic might work better for your taste? Also a slotted spoon works well to drain the fish and veggies before putting them in the taco shell.
ECS June 21, 2015
What a great idea. Can you substitute shrimp or other shellfish?
cheese1227 June 22, 2015
Yes, you can! Just make sure the shrimp or scallops are slightly under cooked when you put the marinate on them, as the proteins will tighten up while sitting in the vinegar. And I would tend on the shorter end of the marinating time with these smaller pieces of shellfish so they don't get mushy.