The Pork of the Sea
Pairing buttery swordfish with spicy-sweet peppers and olives
I’ve heard it said that swordfish is “the pork of the sea,” thanks to its relative heft and luscious white meat. I can’t argue with the characterization, since it is noticeably similar to a deftly-cooked pork chop. However, I would add one caveat: while they are alike in some ways, swordfish is vastly superior to pork. It’s lighter and healthier for one thing, and even an overfished fish is more ethically sourced than industrially-produced pork. It’s also one of the most sophisticated main dishes you can cook, with a buttery, maritime flavor that lends itself to just about any preparation.
For this recipe, the fish is seared on a very hot pan to develop a nicely charred outer crust. I bring the pan to smoking-hot heat (and it should really be emitting a fair amount of smoke), place the seasoned fillet on the pan with no oil, firmly press down to make ample contact with the pan’s surface, and then I add some olive oil to the fish. However, I should note that I have a well-seasoned carbon steel pan that is less prone to sticking than other types of cookware; if you’re using a pan that fish will stick to (like stainless steel), it may be wise to add the oil beforehand.
From there, the fillet is flipped, the pan deglazed, and the fish is garnished with Peppadew peppers, olives, and scallions. This briny selection of toppings works well with the deep, fatty flavor of swordfish, and, true to the moniker, it’s inspired by a classic Italian-American pork chop with hot cherry peppers. The addition of labneh mixed with orange gives it a slightly more Mediterranean bent; I find that labneh is really tasty with swordfish. However, I would encourage you to use any number of ingredients, sauces, and garnishes with this fish, as it really is adaptable: sliced citrus and pine nuts, parsley salad, a traditional butter-and-caper sauce with white wine. The world is your oyster, or swordfish, I guess.
Seared Swordfish with Peppers, Olives and Labneh
1 half-pound wild swordfish steak (makes one serving)
5-6 Peppadew peppers or hot pickled cherry peppers, sliced in half
A handful of Castelvetrano olives and cured black olives, torn roughly
2 scallions trimmed just to the white ends, sliced into thin rounds
1 quarter of a white or red onion, sliced very thin
1.5 tablespoons of labneh
1 orange slice
Red wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Cracked black peppercorns
In a small bowl, combine the peppers, olives, scallions, and onions. Drizzle in some olive oil and red wine vinegar and mix. Set aside.
In another small bowl, combine the labneh with the juice of one orange slice and a pinch of salt. Stir well to combine, and set aside.
Bring a well-seasoned carbon steel pan to smoking-hot heat; there should be a fair amount of visible smoke rising from the pan. If your pan is prone to sticking, add 1 tablespoon of a high-smoke point oil (grapeseed, canola, etc.) before placing the fish.
Pat the swordfish steak dry and add a generous amount of salt and cracked black pepper to each side.
Place the swordfish on the pan. Using a fish spatula, firmly press down to make even contact with the pan’s surface. This is critical for developing a well-browned, even char.
Once you’ve done this, add a small amount of olive oil to the fish, to help lubricate it and aid with the caramelization process.
While the fish is cooking, spread the labneh in the center of your plate.
Let the fish cook on this side for about 4 minutes, pressing down gently every so often and paying close attention to what the underside of the fish looks like. After the 4-minute mark you should notice browning along the edges; you can start taking a peek with the spatula and lightly moving it to make sure it is sufficiently loose. Squeeze the juice of a lemon slice over the fish.
Flip the swordfish and cook on the other side for an additional 2 minutes. The internal temperature should be 130 F when done.
Place the swordfish directly on the labneh. Top the fish with a handful of the pepper-olive garnish.
Add olive oil, flaky salt, and cracked black pepper.