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Grilled Cod Escabeche

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This blog entry is on a very interesting Fish recipe from FIRE IT UP! called GRILLED COD ESCABECHE which I made recently. The recipe interested me on several levels. First of all it used a very spicy sounding rub and marinade, which always a plus for me. But what I found even more interesting was the fact the marinade wasn’t used before the cod was grilled, but after. Yes you read that right the marinade went on after. That was more than enough to get my interest.

The theory behind the marinade is that the cooking process opens up the pores of the fish and allows the marinade to go deep inside the fish and infuse it with flavors. You grill the fish, then let it cool to room temperature. Next you put the cod in the marinade for as little as 6, or as long as 48 hours. You pull the fish out of the fridge about an hour before you want to eat and let it warm to room temperature. You serve it with the marinade. Since the fish was fully cooked when you put it into the marinade, you don’t have to boil the marinade to make it safe.


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The fish doesn’t get any fresher than this. It arrived at the market at the same time I did.

Since the fish needed to spend hours in the marinade, I headed to the market at 9:00 AM. Unknown to me, I’d gotten to the market just as the fresh fish was arriving. My getting to know the fish monger seemed to have paid off nicely this day. I didn’t know the fresh cod had just arrived, but the fish monger got me a piece from the incoming batch as opposed to what was already in the case. I spent some time telling him about what I was going to make and he seemed quite interested. I made a mental note to be sure to show him pictures the next time I was in. I gathered up the rest of the ingredients and headed for home. Even though this was morning and I was having the cod for supper, I would be grilling it up right away. The fish would be grilled when it was at it’s freshest and then spend the day in the fridge in the marinade, soaking up all that flavor.


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The main marinade used a “sub”-marinade called Adobo Marinade made from: Freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice, orange juice, tomato sauce, wine, olive oil, Frank’s Hot Pepper Sauce, minced garlic, smoked paprika and Kosher salt (left). The Adobo marinade was then used in the main marinade together with sliced olives, diced jalapeno chilies, red peppers & red onions, plus red wine vinegar, sugar and red pepper flakes (right).

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The finished marinade is brought to a low boil and allowed to cool to room temperature.

The other thing that attracted me to the recipe was the spicy rub and marinade that it used. The first step was to make the marinade. It gets heated to a boil, so I wanted to do it first so it would be cooled back down to room temperature when it was time to use it. The marinade was a two-step process, which used another marinade as one of it’s ingredients. This marinade was called Adobo Marinade and consisted of: Freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice, orange juice, tomato sauce, wine, olive oil, Frank’s Hot Pepper Sauce, minced garlic, smoked paprika and Kosher salt. Once the Adobe Marinade was mixed it was time to gather the other ingredients for the main marinade. These additional ingredients consisted of sliced olives, diced jalapeno chilies, red peppers & red onions, plus red wine vinegar, sugar and red pepper flakes. Total elapsed time so far was about 55 minutes to make the two marinades and heat the main marinade to a boil. One of the benefits of taking pictures of my cooks, or more accurately my first attempt at a recipe, is you can always refer back to the date/time stamp to see how long things took.


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The rub used ancho chili, dried orange peel, cumin, paprika, sugar, kosher salt and black pepper and had a nice little kick to it.

So it was onto the rub which was called an Orange-Cumin rub and despite the innocent sounding name, it packed a little punch. The rub used dried orange peel, cumin, paprika, sugar, ancho chili, kosher salt and black pepper . After I made the rub, I pulled the fish out of the fridge and started pre-heating the gas grill to medium-high. I also gathered up two of my mesh grill baskets to hold the fish while grilling. This solved several problems, one unexpected and one typical problem with fish. The expected problem was “stickage”. Both the fish and the grill grate need to be well oiled so that the fish will release from the grill grates when you want to turn them. It was a relatively quick cook, so if even one piece sticks to the grill it can throw off the timing for the other pieces. It is hard to slowly and patiently scrape the sticking fish off the grill grate without making a mess of things. It is very hard to be patient when you know you might be overcooking this piece or the other fish. With the mesh grill basket you spray the mesh and oil the grill grate, and when it comes time to turn the fish you turn the basket over and all the pieces of fish turn at once. This makes for the quickest turn possible and if the fish sticks to anything, it will be the grill basket not the grill. IF it sticks to the grill basket you are dealing with that issue once the rest of the fish is safely off the grill. The second unanticipated problem the grill baskets helped solve was the size of the fish. I basically had some big pieces and smaller pieces. Cooking everything the same amount of time in one grill basket would over or undercook some of the fish. So I used two mesh grill baskets. That way I could cook the bigger pieces of fish a minute or so longer than the small pieces and everything would turn out just right. I gave the mesh of each basket a good spray of olive oil and added the cod fillets. I did this by placing each basket over a half sheet pan with a mesh grid insert. Once I closed the grill pan I sprinkled the rub over one side of the fillets. When I was done I flipped the pan and sprinkled the rub onto the other side. The pan and mesh cover served to collect any rub that missed the mark and clean up was a breeze. But before cleaning up I also used the sheet pan to bring the fish and grill baskets out to the grill. Once the fish was out at the grill I swapped out the mesh inserts that had touched uncooked fish, for some clean ones to help bring the cooked fish back into the house.


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To place the rub on the fish I put the fish in the grill basket and the grill basket went over a half sheet pan with a mesh grid insert.

The recipe called for the fish to be grilled at medium-high, which they defined as 425 degrees (218 C). You want to grill the fillets until they have gone from somewhat translucent to opaque. For the smaller fillets this amounted to 5 minutes total, or 2:30 per side. The bigger filets took 7 minutes, or 3:30 per side which was the additional minute per side I mentioned earlier. Even the bigger fish took just 3:30 per side and so you can see why I used the grill basket to prevent sticking. Messing for a minute or two with even one pesky stuck piece of fish could screw up the timing on everything else if you let it. I brought the fillets back in the house and removed them from the grill baskets and placed them in my marinade container. The fish removed cleanly from the mesh baskets. The spray helped here, but also the wire mesh used on the grill baskets is fine and has less contact area than a grill grate. Both the fish and the marinade needed to cool to room temperature which took about an hour from when the fish came off the grill. The total elapsed time from starting to gather the ingredients for the marinade(s) and putting the cooked and cooled fish in the fridge was 2:15. You could probably take 15 minutes off that time for my photos and setup.


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The fish is cooked and is cooling to room temperature in the marinade container. The raised pyramid shapes along the bottom elevate the food so the marinade can get to the bottom side of the food. When the marinade was added it covered the cod completely and so it wasn’t necessary to flip the fish while marinading.

The marinade container I used makes a tight seal with the lid and the whole container can actually be flipped over to coat the second side. For something delicate like these fish filets, I was planning on opening the container and using a spatula to turn them. As it turned out there was enough of the marinade so that it covered the tops of the filets. The bottom of the marinade container uses a pattern of raised pyramid shapes to elevate the items off the bottom. This meant I could just put the container in the fridge for the next 6 hours and forget it. When supper time neared, I simply had to remove the fish and marinade from fridge and let it come to room temperature. I guessed this would take about an hour and that was pretty close. I was already seeing all kinds of nice things about this recipe in terms of it being a great make ahead recipe. I served it with some fresh rolls and french fries, but you could serve it with nearly anything. The beauty is other than pulling it out of the fridge an hour early and then putting it it on a serving dish, you have no work additional work before meal time. You can make a bunch of other items and not have to worry about the main dish at all. It is also flexible, if your other prep takes a little longer the fish isn’t going to be past it’s peak or need to be held or reheated. Another thing that occurred to me is you could get two meals out of it and the second meal may be better than the first. You could remove half of the fish and marinade for use in the first meal, the other half can stay in the fridge in the marinade ready to be used a second time. The recipe gives a rage of 6 hours minimum to 48 hours maximum. If your second meal was in that 48 hour time frame, I’m guessing round two would have even more flavor, which is never a bad thing. You wouldn’t want to exceed the 48 hour mark or the marinade would begin to break down the fish.


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Six hours in the marinade, 5 in the fridge and 1 hour coming back to room temperature, the fish was ready to eat. The fish was wonderful and highly seasoned, the flavors lingered with me for hours afterward

Speaking of flavor, how did it taste? It was wonderful. The fish was moist from spending 6 hours in the marinade and then being serving in the marinade. It was highly seasoned and quite spicy. Despite brushing my teeth after supper and again later in the evening, my mouth was still tingling hours later. There was enough sweet ingredients to take the edge off the spiciness, so it wasn’t overpowering for folks who don’t like REAL spicy foods. On the other hand if you have someone who only likes bland, this wouldn’t be the dish for them either. Everyone I served it to loved it. I’ve got to say that in terms of both cooking method and flavor this was the most unique fish dish I’ve ever tried. I plan to make it again soon and look forward to taking advantage of it’s make ahead advantages.

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