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Swordfish Broiled on a Cast Iron Griddle  
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By Charlie Burke

Over the summer nearly all the fish we prepare is grilled over hardwood
charcoal, and I move the grill close to the back door in the fall in hopes that we
can occasionally use it on mild winter days. Otherwise, fish steaks and thick
fillets will now be broiled in our oven.

I recently purchased “
Fish Without a Doubt: The Cook’s
Essential Companion”
written by Rick Mooney
and Roy Finamore, which is well written and contains
recipes simple enough for beginners while presenting
details and techniques of interest to advanced cooks.

I was pleased to see that he addresses threatened
and endangered species, so you will find no recipe
for Chilean sea bass, red snapper or other species listed
The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch *
a great resource for becoming an environmentally aware
consumer of seafood.

Amidst all his tips and techniques, I found a great idea
for broiling which results in very moist, perfectly done
fish and which I have found works for meat, as well.

A Technique for Home Broilers

Like all good ideas, it is so simple I wondered why I hadn’t heard of it before;
he explained he developed the technique for home broilers to simulate the
salamander, the extremely hot broiler used in restaurants. I have always
broiled on a heavy oval stainless steel commercial tray or in a Spanish terra
cotta baking dish, both chosen for their flat surfaces and ability to withstand
intense heat, but Moonen suggests a well oiled cast iron griddle, which he
preheats under the broiler for fifteen minutes.

Fish placed on this intensely hot surface sizzles and begins cooking
immediately and cooks on both surfaces when returned to the broiler. Cooking
times are very short, and the underside of the fish becomes well caramelized.
(The photo above shows the griddle and fish immediately after removal from
the oven, and the surface is quite pale after only five minutes under the broiler,
so invert the fish for plating to reveal the more attractive browned side).

If you are preparing a fillet with skin, placing the skin onto the griddle will
brown and crisp the skin, and plating is simple because the fillet will not stick.

Cooking times vary, depending upon the temperature of the fish and thickness,
but averages between four and five and a half minutes for one to two inch
steaks of dense oily species such as salmon and swordfish.

Another advantage of using the griddle is its retained intense heat, so I remove
the fish at the shorter time and make a small cut into the thickest part. If it is not
quite done, I wait another minute and check again. Salmon should be removed
at four minutes for medium rare. If a diner wants it medium, a piece can be left
on the griddle one or two additional minutes, making it easy to accommodate
guests’ preferences.

This swordfish was seasoned simply, with coarse sea salt, ground white
pepper and fennel pollen, but choose any flavoring you wish, such as paprika,
Cajun spices, lemon juice or herbs.

Four servings:

4 6-8 ounce pieces of swordfish steak, 1 ½ inches thick
Olive oil
Sea salt
Fennel pollen or ground fennel seed

Place an oven rack on the top rack (3-4 inches from the broiler).Oil a cast iron
griddle well (a large cast iron frying pan works, as well) and place on the rack,
turning the broiler on high.

Season the fillets lightly with coarse or fine sea salt, ground pepper and fennel
pollen or ground fennel. Lightly oil both surfaces of the fish.

After the griddle has heated for fifteen minutes, place the fish on it and broil for
approximately 5 ½ minutes. Remove the griddle from the oven and check for
doneness. It should be barely opaque in the center; if not, leave it on the
griddle for another 30 seconds.

Serve the fish immediately, with the bottom browned side up.

I have just begun using this broiling method and think is yields the best result
of any broiling method. I long ago learned that fish need not be turned when
broiling, using ten minutes per inch for timing, but there have been times that
the lower surface was not perfectly cooked. Now, the griddle side of the fish is
nicely caramelized, while the side facing the broiler is very hot and certainly

It is ideal for entertaining because the fish can predictably be plated within five
or six minutes after going into the oven, and it finally solves the problem of
some guests’ preferring salmon or tuna rare or medium rare and others
wanting it more well done.

*Many species are seriously over fished. Please check out
The Monterey Bay
Aquarium’s Seafood Watch site for more information and remind fish stores or
restaurants that by selling Chilean sea bass and other threatened species they
are contributing to the problem

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH Farm
to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along
with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at
Weather Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
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