Certain ingredients can be misunderstood, others, I just simply don’t like. Swordfish I basically hated. But it was all nothing but a big misunderstanding. Understandably so. I still remember the first time somebody grilled swordfish steaks at some party and offered me a piece. It was like eating really densely packed sawdust and pretending to love it. For years, that remained to be how people cooked this fish and offered it to me. I wasn’t into cooking then but I did love attending bbq parties. The two things I knew at a bbq party were: stay away from grilled chicken breasts and definitely stay away from grilled swordfish.
Years of hatred. Almost 2 decades actually. That all changed in 30 minutes. This morning at 5:30am to be precise. I’m not an early bird but I often have the inability to sleep for more than a few hours on a regular night. I’m fully awake after that, simply staring at the ceiling until it’s time to get ready to go to work. It’s Saturday so I didn’t have the work problem. I knew that Ralphs on Olympic opens 24/7. Yeah, got some fish. Also learned that by California law you can’t buy alcohol before 6am. It was 5:55am by the time I hit the checkout and they made me wait. I took a six pack of beers with me in the end.
A week ago I cooked swordfish at a dinner party at my girlfriend’s house. I remember putting extreme care and attention over that skillet. Guess what… dry sawdusty steaks. Ok, they weren’t that bad, but come on! I thought I knew what I was doing in the kitchen! Well, obviously not. And definitely I haven’t figured out this swordfish technical cooking issue. If there’s anyone out there that can claim being able to pan roast or grill or simply warm up this thing on a skillet without it going dry, call me.
Sous vide comes to the rescue.
Just like 5 years ago, when I first cooked chicken breasts sous vide and I still vividly remember the wow factor, I will never forget this morning when I ripped that baggie open and cut into this fish. Butter. It was like a miracle. It only took 30 mins at a 54C temperature to turn sawdust into heavenly ocean butter. Swordfish is back in the game. Incredible taste, incredible texture but wait. It gets better.
Swordfish tacos take 1.
We had enough leftover sawdust fish from that dinner party that we were able to make fish tacos the next day. Amazing. Actually, probably one of the best fish tacos I’ve had. Swordfish was meant to be in a taco, all smothered in yummy spicy sauces and pickled goodies. Yeah, it’s amazing. The textural problem went away (got hidden more like it) and the flavour was perfect.
Swordfish tacos take 2.
If I’m sleep deprived, hungry and carrying a six pack of beers that means go time. I dove right in. Googling “swordfish sous vide” and reading a bunch of articles. Took me about 5 minutes to settle on a cooking time and temperature. 54C for 30 mins. Before I knew it that fish steak was vacuum sealed and ready to go. My anova reached the cooking temperature and the baggie went in.
Thirty minutes later I took the fish out. The fish had released about 2/3 of a Tbsp of liquid which turned out to be mainly collagen. I could probably take the cooking temperature down a couple of degrees to reduce the collagen/liquid loss although after the taste test, I had zero issues with the texture or juiciness of the fish. In one bite this fish erased my sawdust memories but what happened next completely converted me to a solely fish taco diet. Keep reading.
Flash frying, yes.
I’ve been experimenting with baking soda in batters and flour coatings. It’s amazing how little information there is about using baking soda in these preparations. Well.. sure, it does bubble up rather well which makes for airy batters. But to me, the more important aspect of using baking soda for flour coats and batters is the fact that it speeds up the maillard reaction by raising the Ph level of whatever it touches, accelerating browning which… it’s awesome, because I can deep fry for less time but still get that beautiful golden brown finish. I’m all about applying the least possible amount of heat to food and I also love deep frying. Match made in heaven.
After 1 Tbsp of AP flour, 1/2 tsp of baking soda, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper, I coated the steak without using any binder really. The fish went straight into the flour mix. I didn’t want fish and chips. I wanted swordfish tacos and a bit of crispiness and color. I flash fried the fish at 400F for 40 seconds. That did the trick. Even the skin got super crispy but the sous vide finish was’t affected. Buttery inside, crispy outside. I thought I could only pull this off with a chicken leg.
History was made.
The rest is history. Seriously, I won’t even bother listing ingredients. There’s really nothing to a taco. Flour tortillas, salsa, guac, pickled red onions, lime, cilantro, all of which can be added to added to taste. I used Hernandez hot salsa and guac (I can’t get enough of this stuff, gonna drink it tomorrow morning instead of coffee). I pickled my own red onions weeks ago so I used that. And I added some cilantro leaves to keep it real.
good night and good luck with that swordfish! twss.
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I haven’t tried the flash frying with fish yet, but that is because the fish I cook sous-vide the most would be too thin and would overcook even in 40 seconds. With swordfish though, it could work. I would still allow the swordfish to cool a little before frying, so the core temperature won’t overshoot. I’ve been wanting to make fish tacos for a long time. If I can find fresh swordfish, this is going to be made. Even if the weather here isn’t really taco weather.
Oh and as for the sawdust, it makes a huge difference whether the swordfish is fresh or frozen and then thawed. The latter will be much drier, although with sous-vide it should still be OK.
As for cooking swordfish properly with a conventional method (frying pan or grill), it is possible by using an instant-read thermometer with a probe. Remove the fish when the core reaches 50C/122F and it will still be juicy.
I very rarely order swordfish because it is often overcooked, so I know just what you mean.