Thursday, January 21, 2010

Test Kitchen: Penne Rigate with Spicy Braised Swordfish

Everyone must want to start off the new year on a healthy note because the first Test Kitchen for 2010 is fish. More specifically, 38 percent of you wanted me to try out Food and Wine’s swordfish penne recipe from its January edition (barely beating out braised pork belly at 35%).

That’s fine by me since I’m always looking for different fish to try other than my weekly salmon. I also like the idea of a spicy red sauce to go with it.

As always, you can go to the Food and Wine Web site for the complete recipe. But below you can see how it all came together in my kitchen when I recently made this for dinner.

The first challenge was finding swordfish. It’s not the kind of fish I typically see at my local Safeway. You’ll probably find swordfish at the gourmet grocers (I spotted it at my neighborhood Piedmont Grocery), but I ended up getting it at the Grand Lake farmers market on Saturday.

The swordfish was fresh from Santa Cruz and looked a lot like shark filets. They can be pretty pricey too. I paid $18.99 a pound for my fresh one at the farmers market (the grocery stores were less expensive at around $13.99 a pound).

Other ingredients were fairly easy to find: capers packed in salt (I always bought the capers in liquid in the bottle, so never looked for the ones packed in salt but was able to find a bottle), two jalapeno peppers, anchovy filets, can of tomatoes (already in my pantry) and penne rigate pasta.

I started off by thinly slicing the jalapeno and the garlic. The recipe called for six cloves of garlic, but that frightened me even though I’d be dining alone. So I used more like four nice-sized cloves. For the jalapeno, I was also worried it’ll be too hot so even though the recipe didn’t say so, I cored out the seeds and used only the shell.

I tossed the two ingredients into my skillet with some olive oil to soften them for two to three minutes. Then I added the anchovies, mashing them up along the way, and poured in the white wine and let it simmer for a bit.

After awhile I added in the can of tomatoes (I’d cut up the tomatoes into chunks first) and let everything simmer. (In the meantime I boiled the pasta per the instruction on the box.) When the tomatoes thickened a bit, I added in my seasoned filet of swordfish that I got at the farmers market and the capers (which I had soaked for 20 minutes and drained).

I cooked the swordfish on both sides, letting it sit in the tomato sauce. Then I removed the swordfish after about 8 minutes and set it aside. I let the tomato sauce continue to simmer so it could thicken up some more. This is also where the recipe tells you to season the sauce, but you might not need to season that much since you get a lot of salt from the anchovies and capers. Finally I added the pasta and let it cook for a minute in the sauce like the recipe said.

Then I was pretty much done. I plated up my pasta and spicy tomato sauce and flaked my cooked swordfish and sprinkled it on top. I julienned some basil (left out the parsley, what’s with these recipes with multiple garnishes?) and finished the dish.

Here’s how my dish turned out. Not bad huh? Looks kind of like the Food and Wine picture above, right?

My tips and warnings about this recipe:

  1. If you like your sauce spicy, you might want to leave the jalapeno seeds in the cooking process. I just got a slight spicy tang when I ate my sauce, but I felt like it could have had more kick.
  2. I cooked my pasta till it was done like the packaging said. But I forgot that I had to cook it in the sauce for a minute, so I probably should have just cooked the pasta until it was “almost” done. Then allow it to cook some more in the sauce. My pasta turned out a bit soft.
  3. You might not need it, but a wedge of lemon on the side might be nice for the overall dish. I know, another garnish!

Ease of cooking: Another super easy recipe. Just following my steps above you can see that this would make for a really quick weeknight dinner, if you have the swordfish already in your frig. (I think hunting down the swordfish will be the most time-consuming part of the entire recipe.)

Taste: I loved the meatiness of the swordfish, but I felt the tomato sauce tasted OK but not amazing. It tasted like any other red sauce, lacking much depth or body. Maybe if it was thicker and not as watery? Hard to say.

Overall Grade: B- (like trying a different fish but the spicy sauce was average)

Don’t forget to vote in the poll on the upper right column on what you think I should cook from Food and Wine Magazine’s February edition.

Previous test kitchens:
Cranberry-Maple Pudding Cake
Five-spice Glazed Sweet Potatoes and Walnut Toffee
Smoky Shrimp and Chorizo Soup
Rabbit Ragout with Soppressata and Pappardelle


Kurdistan said...

good recipe i love pasta im going to try it
thanx for the tips

Kim said...

This looks delicious! And I think your photo is better than the magazine's!

One Single Cook said...

Looks yummy! I stumbled across your blog today, can't wait to read more! I'm the single GIRL chef blogger! Not as pretty as yours, but check it out if you like.

Hungry Dog said...

In spite of the average report card, I'm very curious about this recipe, sounds like a puttanesca sauce. I never make that on the do-not-fish list or just super expensive? In any case, I never buy it. But your pasta looks beautiful!

Cookie said...

I'm always trying to cook more fish but run out of ideas to make it into a meal. I love the idea of serving it with pasta! We have swordfish at our local Safeway quite often so I'll be sure to try this one out.

davidsl said...

this looks really easy. you could use any fairly firm fish for this.

Single Guy Ben said...

Kim, thanks!

Single Girl, welcome! I'm going to check out your blog! ;-)

Hungry Dog: Monterey Aquarium says swordfish is a good catch if you buy US caught fish because US rules require certain kind of line catching that's humane for the fish and doesn't harm other fish that might get caught along. But they don't recommend swordfish that's imported. Like I said, mines was from Santa Cruz so totally local and fresh.

Cookie, you're lucky your Safeway has swordfish. Mine don't seem to always have it, unless it's previously frozen.

Davidsl: I agree, any firm white fish will work, as long as you can flake it after you cook it. Some fish might be too waxy and might look funny when flaked.

James said...

Something about the combination of fish with tomato sauce has always left me uneasy... but you do manage to make it look appetizing :)

Reg: The watery tomato sauce, maybe after simmering, the best approach is to only use the solid parts of the sauce, along with the lemon juice garnish? Or would the flavors be left behind in the watery portion? After years of cooking simple pastas, I still have no idea how to deal with this issue :P

PageRank Check said...

fresh ingrideints gives amazing taste thanks for the recipe

egg to the apples said...

Beautiful swordfish photos.