Serve Swordfish (Again!) with a Simple Pan Sauce

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Swordfish with a Simple Pan Sauce

A pan sauce is a simple way to dress up sautéed seafood. However, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to know which fish to choose these days. Many species are overfished or are harvested using horrendous practices that destroy the very environment needed to keep them viable and available to the seafood-loving public. I mean how much sense does it make to fish yourself right out of business? But it’s happening all over the world and unless consumers educate themselves, then we are accomplices in encouraging a situation where we fish all the fish right out of the sea.

Still, it’s not all bad news. The swordfish population is finally in a good place again. There was a period when the swordfish population was collapsing because of overfishing. But after smart efforts to protect the species, including stricter regulation, the fishery has bounced back to sustainable levels. In fact, there are actually more swordfish in our oceans today than there were before the collapse. That’s a success story worth celebrating.

More importantly, it’s a success story worth emulating with other red-listed species. I’m hopeful we’ll see the monkfish, shark, and bluefin tuna populations growing in the next decade. Until then you won’t find them on my plate.

But let me get off my high seahorse and get to the recipe. Well, it’s hardly a recipe. It’s more of a technique for pan frying swordfish. A technique that starts with a brine, moves to the stovetop and finishes in the oven. I hope I make this simple procedure clear in the recipe because I’d like to talk about the pan sauce I’m serving with this swordfish. Mastering a pan sauce quickly and easily is one of those kitchen magic tricks that makes you look like a pro. In fact learning to build a pan sauce could be the highest yielding 25 minutes you’ll ever spend in a kitchen.

Pan Sauce Tips

  1. Use high heat to properly sear whatever you plan to sauce. It creates what pros know as a fond on the bottom of the pan. All you need to know is that these caramelized bits are where the flavor comes from and they’re the essential ingredient for making a quick pan sauce.
  2. Next, remove the seared item and de-glaze the pan (typically with wine) and reduce the liquid. This creates a concentrated, flavorful base for the pan sauce.
  3. At this point lower the heat and add something acidic. Acid builds flavor.
  4. Then turn the burner off to whisk in the cold butter to create an elegant texture.
  5. That’s pan sauce.

PS: One note about the bloodline found in some swordfish steaks. I prefer to cut it away in many cases. It has a strong flavor which doesn’t work well with most delicate preparations. It’s possible to buy swordfish without a bloodline present. However I avoid those cuts, because a bright red bloodline (as opposed to rusty or brownish) is a great indicator of very fresh fish. GREG

Swordfish In Brine Simple Pan Sauce Swordfish with a Simple Pan Sauce

Seared Swordfish with Lemon Caper Pan Sauce

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Seared Swordfish with Lemon Caper Pan Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 (12-15 oz) 3/4-inch thick swordfish fillet (or 2 smaller fillets)
  • ¼ cup kosher salt (plus more for seasoning)
  • 6 cup icy water
  • ground pepper (black, white, Esplette, it’s up to you)
  • 2 tablespoon canola oil
  • 9 tablespoon unsalted butter (divided)
  • 12 clove peeled garlic (optional)
  • 1-2 sprigs of woody herb (such as thyme or rosemary, optional)
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot (heaping)
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoon capers (rinsed)
  • ½ lemon (juice only)
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • lemon wedges (as garnish)

Directions

Brine the swordfish: Brine the fish in a mixture of ¼ cup salt and 6 cups icy water. After about an hour remove the fish from the brine, pat it dry with paper towels, and place it in the refrigerator for at least six hours or up to overnight.

Start on the stovetop: An hour before cooking remove the swordfish fillet from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Just before cooking season the fillet with salt and pepper. Heat a large cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add canola oil and butter to the pan. Once the butter begins to foam, add the seasoned fillet and also the garlic cloves and woody herbs (if using).

Place the swordfish in the skillet and cook until lightly browned about 2-3 minutes. Flip the fish over and remove the skillet from the heat.

Finish in the oven: Place the fish in its skillet in the heated oven and cook 3-4 minutes. Remove skillet from the oven and let it rest 2 minutes and then use an instant-read thermometer to check the interior temperature of the fish. Your goal is 118 degrees F. It probably won’t be there on the first temperature check. In which case return the skillet to the oven for a minute or two and repeat the process until the correct temperature is achieved.

Transfer the cooked swordfish to a warm plate. Remove the herbs, garlic (if using), and most of the fat from the sauté pan.

While the pan is still hot, melt 1 tablespoon of butter, and sweat the shallots until softened about 30 seconds. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and return the skillet to medium-high heat to reduce by half.

Lower the heat to medium. Add the capers and lemon juice, and cook for 1 minute.

Take the pan off the heat, and add in the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, swirling the pan continuously to emulsify the butter.

Add minced parsley, and season to taste.

Spoon the sauce over the fish, and garnish with a lemon wedge.

 

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