Escabeche Cubano con Frijoles Negros

My mother is taking me on a kitchen tour, teaching me all of her favorite childhood and lifetime collected recipes. I will become her willing pupil, ready to learn everything she has to teach me. Because these are dishes that would otherwise be forgotten, if no one took the time to learn, to document, and to pass them on.

Escabeche Cubano  1

In the kitchen, cooking with my mother...making Cuban style Escabeche (es-kah-bech-ay)—fish dredged in salty, seasoned flour and pan-fried in olive oil, then marinated in herbs, spices and vinegar. This very savory and highly seasoned fish is served cold or at room temperature, and it is traditionally served with Cuban Black Beans. We added ham shanks to the beans for an extra boost of flavor. It is a perfect meal to enjoy on a warm summer day.

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Come; take a comfortable seat at our cozy table. Dinner is served!

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This side dish recipe serves 6-8

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STEP 1 (dredge):

Have ready a mixture of 1½ cups all-purpose flour, 6 tablespoons sea salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper.

STEP 2 (frying fish):

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1 cup olive oil for cooking (more or less as needed for depth of 1/2-inch)
Seasoned flour from step 1

3½ pounds halibut (cut [roughly] into 5x2 inch pieces, and about 1/2-inch thickness), lightly coated/brushed with extra-virgin olive oil

  • In a medium to large sauté pan, on the large burner set to medium, heat oil
  • Dredge fish in seasoned flour, and cook fish until light-golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side (do not overcook fish). Place cooked fish on [deep] platter for marinating. Reserve whatever oil remains in the pan for sautéing vegetables during the next steps.

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STEP 3 (marinade & putting it all together):

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Reserved oil from fish fry
1 large red onion, peeled, sliced into 3/8-inch half moons
3 medium bell peppers, seeded, 1/2-inch strips sliced
6 large garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1½ cups apple cider vinegar
12 ounces seedless olives (we used a jalapeño-stuffed variety)
1/3 cup capers

  • In the same pan you fried the fish in (with reserved oil), on medium heat, add onion thru coriander, and cook about 10 minutes.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients: salt through capers, and cook, covered, on medium-low heat, an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the bell peppers are just pliable and slightly tender (do not let the peppers get mushy—you want some texture left).
  • Remove from heat, and immediately, but carefully, pour over the cooked fish. Allow to cool completely before refrigerating. Allow to marinate at least 2 hours, and preferably 24 hours for optimum flavor.

Serve with Cuban Black Beans (optional), recipe follows below.

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Cuban Black Beans with Ham Shanks

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Step 1 (cooking ham shanks):

Note: These shanks were cooked in a slow cooker 12 hours overnight.

2 pounds meaty ham shanks
1/2 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup brandy
1 bay leaf

Add all ingredients to a medium to large slow cooker, cover and set to low. Cook 8-12 hours, or until almost falling-apart tender. When ready, break up into comfortable eating chunks, and reserve meat and its liquid to add to beans later.

Step 2 (putting it together):

1 pound black beans, picked over for rocks, rinsed and [preferably] soaked overnight in cold water.
4 cups chicken stock (enough to cover beans about 1/2 to 1 inch)
2 tablespoons [rendered] bacon fat, or lard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled, finely diced
6 large garlic cloves, peeled, minced
1 bell pepper, seeded, medium diced
1 bay leaf
A light sprinkle of sea salt
1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
Cooked ham shanks with cooking broth
Salt to taste

  • Place strained beans (from the overnight water) into a large-enough pot, add chicken stock, and bring to a rapid boil. Cover pot, lower heat to keep a light simmer going. Meanwhile…
  • In a sauté pan, heat fats to sizzling, add the vegetables, bay leaf and salt and cook until onions are translucent. Immediately add sautéed veggie mixture to the cooking beans, bring to another quick boil, lower to a simmer, cover pot, and cook until bean are just beginning to get tender, about 2 hours. Then…
  • After two hours or so, add the paste, the ham, and adjust salt to taste. Simmer, covered, for 30-45 minutes or until the beans are tender to your personal liking.

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Cook with heart; eat with gusto. Buen Provecho!

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