Roasted Swordfish with Herbs,
Smoked Bacon, and Red Wine Butter


This method is not usually associated with modern fish cookery in this country. It is more ancient in style and examples of it are found in cuisine bourgeois. The bacon is cooked briefly and then pushed into the swordfish meat to enrich the flavor and keep the meat moist during roasting The herbs, red wine butter, and garlic all commingle with the juices of the fish to provide a rich, satisfying seafood entree that has stewlike complexities that pan-frying or quick grilling will not afford. A compote of glazed pearl onions is an ideal accompaniment.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 3 pounds evenly cut swordfish
  • 1/2 pound smoked slab bacon, cut into matchstick-size pieces
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped, mixed fresh herbs (thyme, basil, chervil, tarragon)
  • Peanut oil
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely minced


  • 4 shallots, peeled and chopped tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • bay leaf
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound butter, cut into small pieces and kept cold

1. Have the fishmonger cut an even-sized section of boneless, skinless swordfish. Naturally, it must be spanking fresh. Divide it in half.

2. Cook the smoked bacon in its own fat until medium-rare. Remove the bacon from the fat. (The fat may be reserved for another use.)

3. with a larding needle or knife, insert the bacon pieces into the swordfish, spacing evenly over the two sections of fish. (This is the same procedure often used with game meats, such as venison.) Now, rub olive oil over the swordfish and rub about 1/3 of the herbs on the fish.

4. Bring a large, heavy skillet to a moderately hot temperature, add the peanut oil to the pan, and sear the fish well on all sides. Remove the fish from the heat and allow it to rest.

5. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Season the fish with a little sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Then top the entire length of the fish with the remaining herbs and the minced fresh garlic. Put the fish in a small roasting pan and place it in the oven. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes.

6. While the fish is roasting, make the sauce: In a medium-sized saucepan, gently stew the chopped shallots in the olive oil. Add the red wine vinegar, black pepper, and bay leaf and reduce to 3 tablespoons. Add the red wine and reduce to 1/4 cup. Add the heavy cream and reduce the entire mixture till it thickens.

7. Beat in the butter, bit by bit, until it is all incorporated, and then strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer and keep warm.

8. Remove swordfish from the oven and allow to rest in a warm place for 5 to 10 minutes.

9. Slice the swordfish into portions. If the fish is too rare in the center for your taste, just lay it out in the pan and warm it in the oven for a few more minutes.

10. Ladle a few ounces of the warm butter sauce onto each plate and top with the fish. Serve.

A slightly chilled Beaujolais-style Zinfandel would make a nice counterpoint. If you prefer a white wine, a full-bodied Fume Blanc would be appropriate.


Recipe from:
Feast of Sunlight
by Norman Van Aken
The Harvard Common Press
Copyright ©1997
Reprinted by permission.

Norman Van Aken: A Chef In His Own Words



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