As I wrote in this chapter’s introduction, the fishermen of Bagnara, a beautiful port on the Calabrian coast just north of the Strait of Messina, are renowned for their skill in catching the magnificent swordfish that migrate to this corner of the Tyrrhenian Sea every year. During our recent visit, I was not surprised to learn that the cooks of Bagnara are equally skilled when it comes to cooking pesce spada as well. The one I share with you here is among the simplest and best I have ever tasted, anywhere. Of course, as always in seafood cookery, the freshness of the fish is the key to success, so be sure to get swordfish at its absolute best.
- 2 pounds swordfish steak, 1¼ inch thick, with skin
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
- 5 tablespoons small capers, drained
- 4 plump garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1½ tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
You will need 4-quart baking dish, 10 by 15 inches, or similar size; a roasting pan large enough to hold the baking dish inside it (on the rack); a sturdy flat metal baking/roasting rack to fit inside the roasting pan.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the swordfish steak into six serving pieces. Pour the olive oil into the baking dish, and scatter in the lemon slices, capers, and garlic. Turn the lemon slices over to coat them with oil, and gather them on one side of the dish. Season the swordfish pieces on both sides with salt, lay them in the dish in one layer, and turn each one over several times to coat it with oil on all the surfaces. Distribute the lemon slices on top.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to the boil. Set the baking rack in the big roasting pan, and pour in boiling water to the depth of an inch. Put the dish of swordfish on the rack in the roasting pan, and tent the big pan with a large sheet (or two) of aluminum foil. Arch the sheet over the fish, and press it against the sides of the roasting pan. Carefully set the covered pan in the oven, and bake just until the swordfish is cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Remove the foil, and lift the baking dish from the pan and out of the oven. Immediately crumble the oregano over the hot swordfish and into the pan juices, then sprinkle the parsley over all.
Serve right away, placing each piece of swordfish in a warm shallow bowl and spooning over it some of the cooking juices.