On Eating and Loving Food

Grilled swordfish

Posted:  Wednesday, October 25, 2017 - 9:45am
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I think swordfish is my favorite fish. I love haddock. I love tuna. I love halibut. I love salmon. I love mackerel, as long as I don’t have to catch it and cut its head off and gut it before cooking it, like I did in the “good” old days.

That didn’t used to bother me, but now I prefer to get my fish already gutted and filleted, or sliced into steaks, as in the case of a large fish like swordfish. That way it’s just “fish,” as opposed to “a fish,” that was alive and happy, swimming in the ocean with its cousins just a short time before.

I can’t stand the thought of killing something to eat it. Ugh. I really should be a vegetarian.

But swordfish? That thick slice I got from Pinkham’s on the way home from work last Friday? It might have been the best thing I ever tasted.

Russ Pinkham said it came from the Grand Banks, off Newfoundland, and he got it fresh off the boat. You know fish is fresh when it doesn’t smell fishy. Weird huh. Fish isn’t supposed to smell fishy. Go figure.

Anyway, that swordfish didn’t smell like anything but the ocean. And it was ridiculous!

As I drove home with my little package (I got a thick, half pound slice), I thought about the summer I lived in Cundys Harbor with a swordfisherman. Not that it’s any of your beezwax but I didn’t live with him in the sense you’re thinking right now. I rented a room from him.

He was pretty cute, though :-)

Anyway. He used to leave from a wharf in Cundys Harbor on a big fishing vessel with around five other guys, and they’d be out fishing for a couple weeks.

When they arrived back at the wharf, the hold would be full of swordfish on ice. The fishermen used to say it was “right full.” That’s a Maine expression. “Wicked good” is a Maine expression, too, and that swordfish was wicked good.

The first night back, the fishermen and wives, girlfriends and friends would gather at one of their houses where there was a huge fire pit in the back yard. Budweiser was the cocktail of choice, and I still prefer Bud to any of the hoppy beers that are all the rage now.

What can I say. I’m a Maine girl through and through. Of course I prefer a manhattan to a Budweiser, but none of those fishermen were serving manhattans back then.

So we drank Buds and yukked it up, the fishermen impressed the crowd with sea stories, big logs were thrown into the pit and a fire was lit. It was always a huge bonfire, and by the time the embers died down enough to cook the swordfish, the party was in full swing.

I just heaved a big sigh. Those really were the good old days. I haven’t been back to Cundys Harbor in the 100 or so years since, but my memories of it are good ones. It was the epitome of a small Maine coastal town.

My friend, Lynne, and I, would hang out on the wharf in bikinis. She ended up marrying that cute fisherman years later.

Anyway. Swordfish.

The way those fishermen prepared and cooked the swordfish is the only way I’ll cook it now. Slathered with mayonnaise, sprinkled with salt, and thrown on a grill.

I can still smell it cooking over that pit, and taste it when it was cooked to perfection. Heavenly. I’ve been told that the reason for the mayonnaise is to eliminate any oily taste. But there are several good reasons to use mayonnaise when grilling swordfish, or any fish.

It prevents the fish from sticking to the grill, and it keeps the fish from drying out. But most importantly, it lends a beautiful light golden brown color. And that light golden brown grilled swordfish is outrageous.

The evening I cooked the swordfish from Pinkham’s was a little chilly. I had planned to fire up the Weber charcoal grill on the deck, but opted for the grill on the Jenn-Air in the kitchen.

I turned on the heat, made a manhnattan, slathered the swordfish with mayonnaise and sprinkled it with salt. I sliced up some yellow flesh potatoes, drizzled some olive oil over them, and roasted them. I threw some fresh baby spinach in a pan with some diced garlic that was turning golden brown in some olive oil, and stirred it around for just about a minute.

Then I threw that fat swordfish steak on the grill. I don’t know if it was the memory of the swordfish sizzling over a big fire pit while I drank Bud from a can in Cundys Harbor 100 years ago, the manhattan, or just the mouthwatering aroma of the swordfish sizzling on the Jenn-Air in my little kitchen in Edgecomb.

Whatever it was, it was a fabulous dinner.

Russ Pinkham said the swordfish will be coming for a couple more weeks.

See ya next week!