Swordfish in a Garlicky Broth, Bagnara Style
Bagnara Calabra-Bagnara for short-is the center of Calabria’s swordfish fishery, occupying a sliver of Tyrrhenian coast between mountains and sea. From April to July, these giant migratory fish travel along the Costa Viola, between Bagnara and Scilla, on their way to the Strait of Messina. For more than forty years, the town of Bagnara has staged an annual swordfish festival the second weekend in July to honor the local specialty. Thousands of people from all over Italy descend on the town to enjoy fresh swordfish with pasta, or grilled, or steamed by this unusual method common in Bagnara. You will need a baking dish or lidded casserole just large enough to hold the fish in one layer and a larger flameproof baking dish or roasting pan that can hold the smaller dish in a bath of simmering water. The thin steaks steam quickly in their own juice, producing an aromatic broth with the mingled flavors of parsley, capers, and garlic. Serve with crusty Italian bread to soak up the tasty broth. American fishmongers slice swordfish too thickly, in my opinion. In Italy, it is always sliced more thinly, so it cooks quickly and remains juicy and tender. If you can only find thick steaks, halve them horizontally with a long, sharp knife. This dish is so delicate and simple that fresh, not frozen, swordfish is a must. You can double the recipe to serve four people, but make sure you have a baking dish large enough to hold all four steaks in one layer, and a deep flameproof roasting pan large enough to hold the baking dish. Struncatura or another seafood pasta would be an appropriate first course.
NotesSuggested Wine: Pasetti Zarache, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo A lean, dry white wine from the Trebbiano grape with enough body to stand up to meaty swordfish.
Alternate Wine: Dry Chenin Blanc
Total Timeunder 30 minutes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Cooking for a date
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free
- 2 skinless fresh swordfish steaks, about 3/8 inch (9 millimeters) thick and 5 to 6 ounces (160 grams) each
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
- 1 large garlic clove, very thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon capers, preferably salt-packed, rinsed
- 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Season the swordfish on both sides with salt and pepper. Using the 1 tablespoon olive oil, coat a baking dish just large enough to hold the swordfish. Put the swordfish in the baking dish and scatter the garlic around it. Sprinkle the surface of the fish with capers and parsley. Spoon the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon water over the fish. Cover the baking dish tightly with a lid or aluminum foil.
Choose a large roasting pan or other deep pan that can take stovetop heat and accommodate the baking dish. Set the pan on a burner and put the baking dish in it. In a separate pan or teakettle, bring several cups of water to a boil for pouring into the roasting pan. Turn the heat to high under the roasting pan and add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish. After the water returns to a boil, cook the fish for 8 minutes. Uncover and check for doneness; the fish should be cooked through but still moist and surrounded with flavorful juices. Taste the juices and add more salt if necessary.
Serve the swordfish in shallow bowls, spooning the garlicky broth over the fish. Drizzle each portion with additional extra virgin olive oil.
2010 Rosetta Costantino and Janet Fletcher