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2000s Recipes + Menus

Catalan-Style Fresh Sardine Escabeche

Serves8 (First Course)
  • Active time:30 min
  • Start to finish:13 hr (Includes Marinating)
April 2009
Food editor Melissa Roberts learned the ins and outs of making escabeche—a Spanish dish that preserves fish by frying it, then pickling it—at Alicia Juanpere’s Catacurian cooking school, near Barcelona. As the fish (in this case, robust sardines or mackerel) absorbs the vinegary dressing over time, its flavor deepens, picking up the notes of paprika and cinnamon, orange and lemon.
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal
  • 2 lb fresh sardine or mackerel fillets with skin (see cooks’ note, below)
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 large red onion, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 large carrot, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika (pimentón dulce)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup Sherry vinegar
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 (3- by 1/2-inch) strip orange zest
  • 1 (3- by 1/2-inch) strip lemon zest
  • Equipment:

    a 3-qt shallow dish (2 inches deep)
  • Whisk together matzo meal and 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper. Pat fish dry and season with 1/2 tsp salt. Dredge in matzo meal to lightly coat, shaking off excess.
  • Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Fry fish in 3 batches, turning if necessary, until just cooked through, about 1 minute for sardines or 2 to 3 minutes for mackerel. Transfer with a slotted spoon to shallow dish.
  • Reduce heat to medium and cook garlic in oil remaining in skillet until it just turns golden, about 30 seconds. Add onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add paprika and oregano and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine, vinegar, cinnamon stick, zests, and 1 1/4 tsp salt and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes. Cool sauce to room temperature, then pour over fish and marinate, chilled, at least 12 hours.
  • Bring to room temperature before serving and season with salt if necessary.
Cooks’ notes:
  • If using sardines, discard heads, then split bodies lengthwise to remove center bones and tails. Cut each fish into 2 fillets. If using mackerel, cut into 3-inch-wide pieces and remove any bones.
  • Fish can be marinated up to 24 hours.
  • We’ve also got Web-exclusive recipes using the leftover matzo meal and smoked paprika.
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