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.)