Escabeche might be spelled or pronounced differently depending on where you find it, but whether it’s referring to Puerto Rican, Jamaican, Spanish or Provencal cuisine, it’s generally the same thing: an acidic marinade. I’ve always liked escabeche on oilier fish like mackerel or on nice plump mussels, where the acidity is a great counter balance.

Serves: 4

Steamed mussels
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 c onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 lbs mussels
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 sprigs of thyme
3/4 c white wine

Fennel Escabeche
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 red pepper, julienned
1/4 c red onion, thinly sliced
1 c fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 serrano chile, seeds removed and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp of white balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp white wine
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste

12 1/2-inch baguette slices, cut on a bias
1 tsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
3 large basil leaves, “chiffonade” or sliced into thin strips.

escabache2Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepot, add onion and garlic and sweat for two minutes. Add mussels, stir to coat, season with salt and pepper. Add wine and thyme, cover and let steam until the shells just open, which should take about three to five minutes, depending on the size of the mussels.
Once they cool, pull the mussels from their shells, discarding the shells and setting the mussels aside.

Fennel Escabeche
Heat the olive oil over medium heat; add the veggies and sauté, without browning, until they’re tender, which should take about three minutes. Add balsamic, white wine, sugar and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another minute or until the liquid is reduced until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Pour the mixture over the mussels and transfer to the refrigerator, chilling it for at least an hour and no more than overnight.

Preheat oven to 375.
Brush baguette slices with olive oil, sprinkle with salt then bake until just toasted. While they’re baking, pull the escabeche from the fridge to bring it up closer to room temp.
Once the bread slices are nice and toasted, place three on each plate and top with a small pile of the mussel escabeche then garnish with basil threads.

Tip of the trade: Bearding mussels
Before cooking mussels, they have to be soaked, “bearded” (meaning you have to remove what’s technically called the byssal threads), and then cleaned. First, soak the mussels in clean water for about 15 minutes to loosen any sand stowaways. Next, grab hold of the beard (using a dry towel or even tweezers helps keep your grip on the slippery sucker) and give it a yank, pulling toward the hinged end of the mussel. (Pulling toward the opening end can kill the mussel.) Lastly, clean the shells and edge with an abrasive scrub pad under running water. Now you’re ready to cook.