Snapper Escovitch


F&W Best New Chef 2017 Nina Compton, of Compère Lapin in New Orleans, makes the most delicious version of Jamaican escovitch, combining the classic crispy pan-fried fish with a sweet and spicy pepper sauce.

Snapper Escovitch
Photo: Bobby Fisher
Total Time:
50 mins


  • 2 teaspoons paprika

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • Sea salt

  • Pepper

  • Four 1-pound whole red or yellowtail snappers, cleaned

  • Canola oil, for frying

  • 2 Scotch Bonnet or habanero chiles—1 halved lengthwise and 1 stemmed, seeded and minced

  • 3 red and yellow bell peppers—stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch strips

  • 1 large white onion, halved and thinly sliced

  • 1 carrot, cut into julienne

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed

  • 5 allspice berries

  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds

  • 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar

  • Cilantro leaves, for garnish


  1. In a small bowl, mix the paprika with the cumin, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper. Using a small, sharp knife, make 3 to 4 shallow slashes on both sides of each fish. Season the fish inside the cavity and all over the outside with the spice mixture, rubbing it into the slashes.

  2. Line a large baking sheet with paper towels. In a very large skillet, heat 1/2 inch of oil until shimmering. Add half of the halved chile and 2 of the fish to the skillet. Cook over moderately high heat until browned and crisp on the bottom, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a large, thin spatula, carefully flip the fish and cook until browned and crisp on the other side, 4 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet to drain. Repeat with the remaining halved chile and fish.

  3. Pour off all but 1/2 cup of the oil from the skillet; discard the chile. Add the bell peppers, onion, carrot, garlic, allspice, celery seeds, the minced chile and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just softened, 5 minutes. Add the vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

  4. Transfer half of the pepper mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Spread the puree on a platter and arrange the fish on top. Spoon the remaining pepper mixture over the fish, garnish with cilantro and serve right away.

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