What is Escabeche?
I thought it was just this, a garlicky mix of veggies and peppers quickly sautéed and then soured to perfection in a vinegar bath. But then I recently saw a chicken dish on another food blog being called escabeche, and I learned I know nothing.
I’ve only ever encountered the pickled veggie version as a condiment/accompaniment to meals in Mexican or Central American cooking, but as it turns out, it can actually also refer to fish, chicken or even rabbit dishes from across Mediterranean and Latin American cultures, with the common thread of being marinated and cooked in an acidic mixture, usually vinegar. Apparently this technique is common in Spain, Portugal, and France, and also areas of Spanish influence like the Philippines, Mexico and Central America.
I may need to do some more exploring of this.
Maybe not with rabbit.
For now, though, I’m happy with my version here, the traditional (to me) blend of carrot, cauliflower, and various chiles that I’ve sautéed with a good amount of garlic and onions, then doused in vinegar. The whole mix then gets a few days to chill out in the refrigerator while science works it’s magic, turning the whole jar into a sour and spicy pickle mess that goes perfectly with anything you want to pair it with. I love it with beans, eggs, taco salads, next to chicken, or even on its own as a small snack.
The longer you let this hang out, the better, really. My dad’s wife first served me this recipe when I visited Arizona last Thanksgiving, and by that point her escabeche had been marinating for a week. I went crazy for it, and I think you will too.
- 2 large carrots
- an equal amount of cauliflower as carrots, cut into small florets (can eyeball amount or weigh to compare)
- various chiles (I used 1 jalapeno, 1 serrano, 1 small anaheim chile)
- 2-3 cloves garlic (depending on size)
- 1 large white onion
- 3 bay leaves
- pinch thyme
- salt, to taste (a good pinch at least)
- pinch ground black pepper
- olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of the skillet)
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 3/4 cup water
- Slice carrots into 1/4 inch thick rounds, break cauliflower into small florets, and slice chiles into desired sizes (I like larger pieces but I cut the serrano into thin slices so it would more evenly distribute. I also seeded the serrano out of fear but be brave if you're brave). Mince the garlic and thinly slice the onion.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and saute the garlic and onion for two minutes. Add carrots, cauliflower, chiles, bay leaves, thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Saute 5-10 minutes, trying not to overcook. Check at 5 minutes and proceed carefully from there, lowering the heat if needed.
- Add vinegar and water to the pan and heat until boiling, then remove from heat and let cool completely. Transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate at least 24 hours before serving, though this gets better the longer it sits.
- This recipe is very forgiving. You can play around with amounts if you want. Want more chile? Add more. Want more garlic? Add more. You get the idea. The only real important rule is not to overcook the veggies. You want them to stay a little crisp even after cooking and pickling.