I remember discovering swordfish in my early teens and thinking it was the fanciest food in town. We didn’t have it often because my Mom doesn’t love fish, but I would eat it when I could and always enjoyed it. In college, it didn’t fit the budget, but also became the poster fish (sorry), at least for me, of overfishing problems of which I was just starting to become aware; as a young woman trying to do the right thing for my planet, I took pride in stubbornly refusing to eat swordfish, my contribution to the greater good. It’s funny now to think about all the other things I ate without care or question, knowing how staunch I was in my decision to save the swordfish. Sometimes naivete helps you choose your battles.
Fast forward a few (ahem) years to last night at the local fish market. As we scanned the case for a fresh, local choice for dinner, I saw swordfish, at a very reasonable price. I asked the fishmonger where it was from and he said it was “West Coast fresh not frozen”, though he didn’t know specifically which area/state it had come from. I passed it by at first, and he must have seen the longing? social consciousness? in my eyes, because he offered up that it was a responsibly harvested option. We talked for a while about how the fishing practices have changed over the past decade or so, particularly on the West Coast, how swordfish populations are thriving again. I trusted him, and I bought some, and I cooked it for dinner, and it was delicious. I couldn’t even remember what swordfish tasted like! My husband remarked that it was “fish for someone who doesn’t like fish”, with a meaty, almost dry texture that’s more like chicken than fish. It was a nice treat, delicious with a fairly simple sauce made with butter, garlic and white wine; though I probably won’t buy it very often, it’s nice to know that it’s an option again.
I plan to do a bit more research to make sure the nice man at the fish market was telling me the truth about the swordfish populations, though I didn’t get the sense he was pushing to make a sale. We are lucky to have a wonderful, well-stocked fish market nearby and have always been pleased with the seafood, fish and information we get there. If you have questions about which fish to buy, how to choose sustainably caught seafood or how to know whether the restaurant you’re eating at pays attention, too, please take a look at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. The website has so much valuable information, and they have thoughtfully created pocket guides (available for download and at many grocery store seafood counters or fish markets) and smartphone apps to help you make choices on the go. It may seem like a hassle to check, but it really takes no time at all to make an informed, conscious choice.
Swordfish with Garlic & White Wine
- 2 6-8 oz. swordfish steaks, rinsed and patted dry
- salt & pepper
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 1 T. butter
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
- splash of dry white wine, maybe 1/4 c. or so (I use pinot grigio)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Select an ovenproof skillet that can move from stove to oven and back.
Over medium heat, add the olive oil to the skillet and allow it to heat to what I call the “rippling point”. Don’t let it smoke or burn. When the oil is hot, carefully add the swordfish steaks to the pan and sear for 3 mins. Use a spatula or fish turner to flip the steaks and cook for another 3 mins. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 10-15 mins. Cooking time will vary based on the thickness of your fish; my steaks were fairly thin and cooked thoroughly in 10 mins. Factor in that they will cook for another minute or two after the oven.
When your swordfish is done baking, remove the pan from the oven– remember the handle is hot! (I kept the oven mitt on while finishing the fish because I was so worried I would forget and burn my hand.) Place the skillet back on a burner turned to medium-high and add butter, garlic and wine. Allow the sauce to cook down rapidly– it should be steaming and boiling vigorously– while you spoon sauce over the fish. (If you are concerned about overcooking the swordfish, remove it to a plate while you finish the sauce.) When the pan sauce has reduced and thickened and looks glossy, it’s done; remove immediately from the heat and plate the fish, if you haven’t already done so. Spoon the sauce over the fish, season with salt & pepper and serve immediately.