Wahoo Escabeche

by Matt on March 20, 2009


So where were we? Oh yes, our boating trip. I wanted to share the recipe for our catches of the day. But not my catch, unfortunately. You see,while Jaden and Adam and others on the boat caught gorgeous and hefty wahoo,  I only came back with a mean barracuda and a concussion. But it wasn’t the fish’s fault. Something about rocky seas, a trap door and a broken noggin, but I am ok now, I swear.

Even though I grew up on the gulf coast of Texas, decades of urban living have removed any memories of fishing and foraging adventures I had. While I’m happy to tour the urban farm now and again and take nice drives out of the city there’s really nothing like being in the middle of the ocean catching your own dinner. It was exhilarating to say the least but the best part? Handing over your catch to skilled and talented chefs who respect your hard work and whip up some amazing dishes right before your very eyes.

sean-with-fish1After our boat returned we were all treated to a food demo from Chef Sean Bernal of The Oceanaire Seafood Room in Miami. Club Med assembled quite an array of chefs for the Food & Wine Event and it was a pleasure meeting Sean. He shared his recipe for Wahoo Escabeche, a dish of vinegared vegetables and fish and told us that it reminded him of the Puerto Rican flavors of his youth. Unfortunately it wasn’t a flavor of my latin youth but you better believe I’m doing my best to make up for lost time.

I have a hankering for anything pickled, vinegared, soured and crunchy. This recipe does all that but with finesse, imparting a slightly herbal flavor and a tinge of heat. Of course you don’t need to use wahoo for this recipe; any fatty fish will do. But you absolutely do not want to use a lean fish, you got that? Add extra heat if you like and give the recipe time to develop its flavors. It’s worth it.

Wahoo Escabeche from Chef Sean Bernal of The Oceanaire Seafood Room in Miami, Florida.

If you can’t get wahoo no worries; any fatty fish like mackerel will work just fine.

10 ounces wahoo fillets, cut into 4 inch pieces
salt and pepper
1 cup flour for dredging
1 green bell pepper, julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 white onion, julienned
1 carrot, julienned
1 scotch bonnet chili, seeded and minced
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup extra olive oil, divided
1 bay leaf
6 allspice berries

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Using just half of the olive oil, sauté the green bell pepper, red bell pepper, onion, carrot and chili until sweet and softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and set the mixture aside.

Season the fish with salt and pepper. Dredge the fish in flour. Heat a frying pan over high heat. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and when the oil is hot, lay the fish fillets in the pan. Cook the fish for 2 minutes, flip and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove the fish when they are about halfway cooked through (the vinegar will cook the fish the rest of the way)

Place the fish in a nonreactive pan and spoon vinegared vegetable mix over and around the fish. Refrigerate overnight. 20 minutes prior to serving, remove the pan from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Serve at room temperature.


(Even though it would have eaten me in a second I tried to show some love to my barracuda. In fact I named it Nancy Ann Wilson. Adam caught the biggest wahoo but didn’t give it a name other than “Dinner!” Photos of us of by my homegirl Diane of White On Rice Couple.)

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Phoo-D March 20, 2009 at 7:19 am

A scotch bonnet- Wow! That is a spicy recipe (sounds delicious). Love the photos of you and Adam, beautiful fish and lighting.

Laura [What I Like] March 20, 2009 at 8:16 am

God I love pickles…and anything and everything pickled. Weekend project!

Anne @ Pink Galoshes March 20, 2009 at 8:48 am

Pickled wahoo! This is one fantastic recipe. Delicious!! Thanks for posting.

Amanda from Mrs.W's Kitchen March 20, 2009 at 11:27 am

That’s one huge barracuda! I caught many when I lived in Key West, but none so large as that! And you are so right–there’s nothing quite like catching your own supper. Because we were “local” and not at a hotel, the boat captains would only fillet the fish and hand it over–we were on our own for cooking it! Even the oiliest fish are delicious on the grill with lemon, salt, pepper and butter. Yum!

Anita / Married with dinner March 20, 2009 at 11:44 am

“oooooh, barracuaaaaaaa” :)

And I am dating myself by laughing at your fish’s name.

Jennifer Hess March 20, 2009 at 11:49 am

Anita, I’m right there with you, giggling over here. Filing this one away for bluefish season…

veronica March 20, 2009 at 6:44 pm

oh my god. when i e.mailed you last week, i didn’t know you were from the texas coast. or maybe i had read that and spaced it out. i grew up close to south padre…
love your fotos of you and your man with the fish. spectacular!

veronica March 20, 2009 at 6:47 pm

love escabeche…by the way.

Broderick, Savory Exposure March 20, 2009 at 7:39 pm

Love the photos of you and Adam! The recipe sounds delicious

Angie D in Ohio March 22, 2009 at 7:00 am

Oh Matt… how funny…. as soon as I saw the word “barracuda” I began singing it. God… I haven’t thought about that song for years, and yet…barracuda is just a really fine word.

Thanks for sharing your photos, recipes, humor and great stories. Love it…!!

stephen March 22, 2009 at 6:16 pm

Love the site and this dish.. we do many variations of escabeche at HOG. Fish, rabbit and pork.. Just love acid!
one question though. why the flour dredge? it seems that it would make the dish gummy and it wouldn’t let the acid permeate the fish.
pretty shot!

Kja March 24, 2009 at 8:29 am

I really love the styling of the picture, simple but eye catching and with a hint of Provençal inspiration. Bravo!

Preston March 27, 2009 at 6:15 am

Wow! I was in Florida in February for a trade show and a group of us ate at the Oceanaire. The food was fantastic. (By-the-way, your site looks fabulous)

Pinoy Food Cravings March 28, 2009 at 4:19 pm

What an interesting way of cooking escabeche, My mom used to cook escabeche and its just normally topped with carrots and bell pepper and of course the sweet and sour sauce.. btw that how its being cooked here int the Philippines:)

Sean March 30, 2009 at 7:26 pm

I think Wahoo Escabeche will be my new drag name.

IowaCowgirl April 6, 2009 at 6:42 am

Heart! love the poor barracuda’s name!

SydneyCider May 12, 2009 at 8:06 pm

What an amazing fish! Here is a history lesson for ya. Escabeche as a word derives from Al Sikbaj, a medieval Arab dish made by cooking meat in vinegar. The dish was taken to Spain by the Arabs during their invasions, and the word change from al sikbaj to escabeche.
Now, another word that derives from the same is aspic, which when the dish cools down, gellification takes place.
Escabeche or sikbaj are also thought to be the origin of the word ceviche. Ceviche uses an acid to “cook” fish in a way similar to using acidic vinegar. That is just one hypothsis though. I’ll try to recreate the original al sikbaj recipe someday to show you the similarities :)

Marissa October 28, 2009 at 6:13 pm

and what am I supposed to do with the bay leaf and the allspice berries that took me an hour to find in the store?

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