I was in Jamaica a couple of weeks ago on a mission trip. (I’m not a very good missionary but that is a story for another time!) I was helping my dear friend, Becky Smalley; get patients ready for eye surgery. As we put drops in their eyes we had time to talk to every person while they waited. The conversation many times involved food and local recipes for Jamaican specialties. I was trying to get a recipe for a dish I had tried and thought you might like called Escovitch Fish. Since I only understood about every third word I heard, it took several tries from different groups of people to get the entire recipe. Just let me say the Jamaicans are delightful and passionate about their food!
At one point in the recipe everyone kept telling me I had to fry the fish “dry.” I kept asking how to do this, (oil is anything but dry). Finally, someone who had lived in the United States for a while explained. Many Jamaican’s soak fish in salted water instead of sprinkling salt on top before frying. Therefore, the fish must be “dry” before you fry it or serous burns can occur.
For this recipe you can use whatever recipe for fried fish you like. What I loved about escovitch fish was the vegetable relish the Jamaicans put on top of the fried fish. The authentic version calls for ingredients we usually can’t find (scotch bonnet peppers, cane vinegar and chocho) so I have substituted others that are readily available. I now use the relish on sandwiches for added crunch and heat. I think you might find some creative uses for the escovitch part of the recipe too!
Fried fish, prepare as preferred
Escovitch Vegetable Relish
1 Habanero pepper (or any hot chili pepper you like, seeds removed), finely chopped. (Please remember to wear gloves or use the produce bag to hold the peppers while chopping and then scraping into a saucepan.)
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 green pepper, julienned
1/2 yellow squash, julienned
1 small onion, Julienned
1 cup apple cider vinegar
Prepare vegetables. In a non-reactive medium saucepan add prepared Habanero pepper, carrot, green pepper, yellow squash, and onion. Cover with vinegar. Add more vinegar if vegetables are not submerged. Heat vinegar and vegetables until vinegar boils, then boil 3 minutes. (I like the vegetables crunchy, but you can boil them longer if you prefer your vegetables softer).
Remove pan from heat to cool. Leave vegetables in vinegar 2 hours then drain. (The longer you leave the relish in the vinegar the more sour and hotter they will get.) Serve immediately or store in refrigerator for later use. Use as a garnish on top of fried fish or other sandwiches.
Tip: You could use zucchini in place of the yellow squash and red pepper in place of the green pepper. I wanted a colorful relish with 4 colors so I used the above combination of vegetables.
Published in The News and Neighbor on June 15, 2022.