Ever since I can remember, my favorite seafood has been catfish. There's just something about this under appreciated fish that I love. I guess you can attribute it to my southern roots. My mother and her side of the family is from North Carolina, Caswell and Alamance counties to be exact. Although I didn't exactly grow up in NC, I would visit every other Christmas/Thanksgiving and during the summers and it was then that I would get my exposure to southern classics like fatback and biscuits, "chitlins", and chopped NC pork BBQ. Of course with my mother being from the south, we would eat some of these things at home, but there's just something about Big Mama's house that makes the food taste extra special. It was here I was also allowed to help which spawned my love of food.
As I grew older and moved around the world due to my parents being in the Navy, I grew to appreciate the flavors of the world as well. One of my absolute favorite cuisines is Caribbean. From the spicy sweetness of Jerk Chicken to the perfection that is Salt Fish and Bake to Roti to Doubles...and don't EEEEEEM get me started on Oxtails. I swear they are the reason Usain Bolt is so fast! But recently, I was introduced to escabeche while in Bimini, Bahamas. It was made with Red Snapper, deep fried and then cooked briefly in the most delicious sweet and sour sauce that has stayed on my mind ever since.
So I had to recreate the flavors, while cutting out some of the calories that I ate on the beach, before swimming out to our ride - a boat waiting for us beyond the safe shallow waters (YIKES!). In my version, I use my favorite fish, Catfish and rice flour to create a crispy, but gluten free and think crispy crust topped with peppers and onions that have been cooked in the sweet and sour escabeche that when put all together, is a party in your mouth. Yes, the party is playing Soca!
If you want to experience a taste of the caribbean, watch the video and follow the recipe below! Oh, and just so you know how much I love Catfish, my Big Mama still sends me a birthday card with money and a note directing me to "buy myself some catfish". Lol. I love her!
Catfish Escabeche with Coconut Lime Rice
Author: Monique Manning
Nutrition (per serving): 421 calories, 9.8g fat, 71.4g carbs, 3.2g fiber
Rice * Serving of Rice is 1/2c cooked*
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 Cup Brown Rice
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (homemade or low-no sodium)
1tbs pure coconut cream
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 Mini Bell Peppers, sliced thin
1/4 Onion, sliced thin
2 cloves Garlic
2 pieces Catfish Filets, medium thickness
1/2 cup Rice Flour
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Ground Mustard Seed
1/2 tsp Thyme
2 tsp Hot Smoked Paprika
1 tsp Onion Powder
2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 - 1/2 cup Grapeseed oil (or another high-heat tolerable oil)
1/3 cup Vinegar
2 tablespoons Sugar
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp Whole Peppercorn
Before we begin cooking the fish, let's make the rice. In a pot, add one tablespoon of coconut oil to the pan and allow it to heat. When the oil moves around easily and is shiny, add the rice and toss to coat evenly. next add the lime juice and coconut cream to the rice and stir to get everything incorporated. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cover, cooking according to package directions, about 25 minutes. until all liquid is absorbed. Be sure not to let the bottom of the rice burn.
Now to the main attraction: The first thing you want to do, is slice your vegetables in thin strips. Try to get the sliced to even slices so that they will cook to the same doneness when it's time to add them to the pan. Once you have sliced them, set them aside until we need them later.
Measure out what you will need for your escabeche sauce, the vinegar, sugar, 1tsp of salt and the whole peppercorn. The process when adding everything moves quickly, so it's best to have it all ready to go. Also set aside until we need them.
Sprinkle your fish with a pinch of salt and pepper directly on the flesh to get some seasoning all of the way through. Next, in a brown paper bag, or on a plate like I did, combine your rice flour and all of your seasonings. If using a bag, shake to combine all ingredients. If using a plate, use a fork to mix everything together.
Coat your fish on both sides with the flour, really pressing it into the fish to make sure it sticks to the fish and shake off excess flour that does not stick. Your filets should look like this:
In a skillet, add the oil and heat over medium-high heat. To test if the oil is ready, take a pinch of the flour and sprinkle it on top. If it begins to sizzle ("fry") the flour, then you may add your fish. Add the fish to the pan gently, making sure not to splash and cook on one side for 4-5 minutes or until you get a golden brown color.
Flip Fish over and repeat, cooking until you get the golden brown color and then remove from the oil and allow to drain on a rack with paper towels under. Allowing the oil to drip off of the fish instead of having it sit in the oil makes sure to avoid reabsorption of extra oil, thus avoiding extra calories. Frying the fish in shallow oil, on the appropriate temperature and then removing to drain this way adds only 20 calories to this preparation.
Once both pieces of fish have been removed, use a clean skillet and add a little coconut oil and allow to warm. Add the vegetables and stir to evenly coat and allow to cook for about a minute to soften. Next add in the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper for the escabeche and allow to come to a boil.
Once the escabeche has come to a boil, add the fish just on top of the mixture and immediately cover and turn off the heat. Allow the fish to sit in the mixture and "steam" for 1-2 minutes. Unfortunately, I did not get pictures of the last two steps because I was filming, but this has been fully captured in the video!
To a plate, add your rice and top with your fish. On top of your fish, put some of the vegetables and then pour over the sweet and sour escabeche and enjoy! I know I did!!