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Mackerel Escabeche With New Potatoes

Osteria: Hearty Italian Fare from Rick Tramonto's Kitchen
by Rick Tramonto & Mary Goodbody

Sgombro Escabeche con Patate
(Mackerel Escabeche with New Potatoes)
This is my version of escabeche, or as it's known in Italy, scapece. The mackerel, which is an oily fish that is simply delicious, is first cooked and then soaked in a lovely marinade flavored with cider vinegar, white wine, olives, fennel, and fresh herbs and then served with potatoes mashed with creme fraiche. It's a luscious pairing.
Serves 4

    Marinade And Vegetables
    1¼ cups cider vinegar
    ~ 1¼ cups dry white wine
    ~ 3 tablespoons sugar
    ~ 1 tablespoon kosher salt
    ~ 4 garlic doves, thinly sliced
    ~ 4 shallots, thinly sliced
    ~ 2 celery ribs, cut on the diagonal into ¼-inch pieces
    ~ 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
    ~ 1 carrot, thinly sliced
    ~ ½ fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
    ~ ½ cup chopped green Cerignola olives or other green olives
    ~ 8 saffron threads
    ~ 1 sprig fresh thyme
    ~ 1 bay leaf
    ~ 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    1 pound new potatoes
    ~ 1 bay leaf
    ~ ¾ cup creme fraiche
    ~ 2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
    ~ Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

    ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
    ~ Four 6-ounce skin-on mackerel fillets

    To Serve
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

To prepare the marinade, bring the vinegar, wine, sugar, and ¾ cup water to a boil in a pot over high heat. Add the salt and bring the liquid to a boil. Cook at a rapid boil for about 5 minutes, or until reduced by a quarter.

2. Remove the pot from the heat and add the garlic, shallots, celery, bell pepper, carrot, fennel, olives, saffron, thyme, bay leaf, and black pepper to the liquid. Let the marinade cool to room temperature, and then let it stand for 4 hours at room temperature.

3. To prepare the mackerel, heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, put ½ cup of olive oil in the pan.

4. When the oil is hot, sear the mackerel, skin side down, for 2 minutes. Turn the fish and cook for 1 or 2 minutes longer, or until cooked through.

5. Put the mackerel, skin side down, in a shallow nonreactive glass or ceramic dish and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon about 1 cup of the marinade over the fish or enough to cover it, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

6. To prepare the potatoes, without peeling them, cut the potatoes into large dice and put them in a large saucepan. Cover them with lightly salted cold water and add the bay leaf. Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook the potatoes for about 15 minutes, or until just tender. Drain the potatoes, remove and discard the bay leaf, and return the potatoes to the pan.

7. Add the creme fralche and chives and mix well, lightly crushing the potatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside, covered, to let the potatoes cool to room temperature.

8. Divide the potatoes among 4 serving plates. Lift the fish from the marinade and put a mackerel fillet on top of the potatoes. Spoon the vegetables on top of the mackerel. Drizzle some of the marinade and 1 tablespoon of olive oil around each plate. Garnish with the parsley and serve.

The Sommelier Recommends
Mackerel has a very pronounced flavor, and with this dish, the wine choice also has to contend with cider vinegar, olives, herbs, and saffron! The wine must have high tones (the nice way to say acidity) and not clash with the complex flavors of the dish.
The solution?
Pinot Bianco. This white wine is produced all over Italy, but our favorite versions come from the northern regions of Friuli and the Alto Adige. Maculan in the Veneto makes a cool, sophisticated blend of Pinot Bianco, Tocai, and Pinot Grigio called "Pino e Toi" that will delight.


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