One of my favorite types of seafood is definitely swordfish. It has an incredible unique flavor, it’s firmness stands up well to grilling unlike other varieties of fish that tend to fall apart if not handled very carefully and is very versatile as an ingredient. Cook it as a steak, cut it into cubes and add it to a pasta sauce, dice in small pieces and add to a seafood based risotto; etc. A method of cooking swordfish I am particularly fond of is marinating it, grilling it as a steak and serving it with a sauce and a side of vegetables.
There is controversy surrounding the amount of mercury contained in swordfish; some people say to avoid it due to it’s mercury content, others that the amount of mercury in the fish is negligible and should not pose any health risks; but I say everything in moderation and if this issue concerns you, just avoid eating it. There is also controversy surrounding the issue of overfishing but this one is for a blog post of it’s own. Again, if this concerns you, avoid eating it.
The recipe I am going to share with you today is for swordfish steaks marinated in a balsamic and herb marinade and served with a sauce comparable in preparation to a beurre blanc sauce with some modifications of my own. One of the ingredients in the sauce are ghost chilis, also known as bhut jolokia or naga jolokia peppers. These peppers are no joke; they range approximately 1,000,000 on the Scoville scale and special care should be taken when prepping them. Use gloves, don’t get any in your eyes, nose…well, you got the point.
Although exceptionally hot, they can be used to prepare a nice hot sauce, chili oil or used in small amounts depending on your tolerance of heat to add piquantness and a fruity flavor to sauces, marinades, etc. If you want to learn more about these little fireballs or would like to purchase some products, seeds, plants or pods, I suggest you visit Ron Elkins’ website and Facebook page. Ron is an expert in ghost chilis and his farm produces some of the best peppers you can find to satisfy your love of spiciness.
I used a small piece of one chili to add some spiciness to my sauce along with a bit of Manuka honey to balance out the heat. I added a few thin slices of pepper as a garnish and although picking one of these little slivers of ghost chili along with your bite of swordfish might be frightening to someone unfamiliar to how hot these peppers are; the butter in the sauce helps bring down the heat quite quickly and the honey reduces some of the heat as well. I used Manuka honey for it’s earthy flavor and sweetness profile which is lower than other honeys, but you can choose to use any honey of your preference.
Getting into science here for a second, you may wonder why milk, or dairy products like ice cream and yogurt help with the heat when eating spicy foods. The “hot” compound in spicy peppers is called capsaicin and it has a long hydrocarbon tail, meaning it binds strongly with lipoprotein receptors on the tongue. It is not water soluble but does dissolve in oils or alcohol.
Butter (or dairy products like milk, yogurt etc) contain casein, which helps break down capsaicin pretty quickly; this is why my sauce will not leave you with your mouth searing and has a nice balance of sweetness and heat instead. The lemon flavor and the use of herbs like sage, rosemary and thyme adds to the wonderful flavor as well. You can also avoid garnishing the dish with additional pepper, or you can add more depending on how much heat you can tolerate. Start by adding a small amount, taste the sauce as it’s cooking and add more if you want more spice and especially if you’re not accustomed to eating spicy peppers such as these.
Balsamic and herb marinated grilled swordfish steak over potato salad with a lemon, turmeric, herb, ghost chili piquant sauce; Manuka honey added for sweetness
Ingredients for 2:
2 swordfish steaks, about 8 oz each or 1 1/2 inch thickness, skin on
For your marinade you will need:
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp finely minced onion
1 tbsp minced sage
1 tbsp minced flatleaf Italian parsley
1 tbsp minced rosemary
1 tbsp minced thyme
A pinch of salt and cracked black peppercorn to taste
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp of Manuka honey or 1/2 of any honey of your choice; add more or less depending on how sweet you like your sauce.
2 cloves of garlic sliced lengthwise
1 quarter of an onion, roughly chopped
3 tbsp grated fresh turmeric
1 tsp minced sage
1 tsp minced thyme
1 tsp minced rosemary
1 tsp minced flatleaf Italian parsley
1 tbsp chopped basil
1 5mm slice of ghost chili (start with a smaller piece if you are unsure about your tolerance and if not hot enough for you, add more as the sauce is cooking.)
Corn starch slurry made with 1 tbsp corn starch and 2 tbsp water
Salt to taste
In a baking dish large enough to fit both pieces of fish, add all the marinade ingredients and whisk until the oil, vinegar and lemon juice are incorporated nicely with all the other ingredients. Add the fish and coat on both sides. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate for an hour, turning the fish halfway through. When ready, wipe off the excess marinade and place the fish on a cutting board, pat dry and cover it allowing the fish to come to room temperature for 10-15 mins.
Preheat your grill until very hot. While your grill is preheating, you can start preparing the sauce.
In a skillet over medium high heat, add the 1 tbsp butter and allow to melt. Add the garlic and onion and sauté until softened. Add the lemon juice along with the turmeric, herbs and ghost chili. Reduce the lemon juice by half, then add the white wine and allow it to reduce by half as well. Remove skillet from the heat and add 2 tbsp cold butter, keep stirring until emulsified. Add the honey and mix until incorporated into the sauce. Add the pan back on the heat and add the cornstarch slurry. Mix the cornstarch with water in a small cup or container until dissolved and add to the sauce slowly, stirring the sauce until it has thickened. Drop to low heat and leave the sauce slowly simmering as you grill your fish. If after you have finished grilling your swordfish the sauce has thickened too much, add a small amount of water and whisk well to thin it out.
Lightly coat both sides of your swordfish steaks with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Grill your swordfish 3-5 minutes per side depending on the thickness of the fish. You can see the fish cooking by looking at it on it’s side while grilling it. You can see the color change gradually from a slight translucent to opaque from the bottom up. When the color has reached 1/3 of the way up the fish, flip it over.
The cheffy way to check if your fish is cooked properly is to insert a small sharp knife through the thickest part of the fish, hold for a few seconds and pull out. Place the knife immediately against your lower lip and if it appears warm, the fish has been properly cooked. Or you can use the classic method of checking for flakiness with a fork. If you want to create some nice grill marks on your fish, place the steaks on the grates diagonally and halfway through cooking one side, lift the fish off the grates and place back down inverting the angle. To create this effect, you must make sure that the grates are extremely hot.
Plate your finished dish by pouring some of the sauce on the plate, some potato salad in the middle and place your fish on top. Drizzle the fish with a little more sauce and garnish with fresh thyme and very thin slices of ghost chili (optional). Any sweet based potato salad recipe will work well with this dish as well as any sides of veggies of your choice. You can also choose to serve the fish as is just with the sauce.