Photograph by Camila Falquez food styling by Maggie Ruggiero 
Prop Styling by Amy Wilson

Julie Dash

“Escaviach” Fish

Mains from Issue 11 – Summer 2017 – Heroines

The first feature by an African-American woman to earn a wide release, Julie Dash’s radical 1991 epic Daughters of the Dust is an evocative celebration of black female identity. Set in the Sea Islands in 1902, it also serves as a record of Gullah folk and food traditions, for which Dash relied on late culinary griot Vertame Smart-Grosvenor as a resource. This recipe for “escaviach”-style fish, is adapted from her book Vibration Cooking.

serves 4

  • 2 (1 to 1½ lb) whole fish, such as orata, branzino, or snapper, cleaned and scaled
  • juice of 3 lemons
  • 2 tsp onion salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp each seasoning salt (like Lawry’s) and black pepper
  • 3 to 4 cups corn or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 Tbsp whole allspice berries
  • 1 tsp Tabasco
  • white rice for serving

  • 1

    Rinse fish inside and out and pat dry. Season with lemon juice, onion salt, seasoning salt, pepper, and paprika and marinate, chilled, 3 to 4 hours.

  • 2

    Pat fish completely dry. Pour enough oil in a deep, heavy 9-10 inch skillet to come ¾ inch up sides. Heat over medium-high until very hot but not smoking. Fry fish, in batches if necessary, until golden brown and crisp on both sides, 5 to 6 minutes per side. Transfer fish to paper towels to remove excess oil.

  • 3

    Bring vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to boil in a medium saucepan. Add onions, Tabasco, and allspice berries and then return to a simmer and cook until onions are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.

  • 4

    Place fish in a large glass or ceramic baking dish and pour onion mixture over fish; turn to coat both sides. Refrigerate covered, overnight.

  • 5

    Pry fillets from bones and serve 1 fillet per person warm or chilled with rice.