Chef Doug D’Avico gives us the scoop on his perfectly seared swordfish—including the key ingredient and his secret technique
What was your inspiration for the dish?
My basic idea was that I wanted to do a shore lunch, so I kind of took the simple concept and just brought the flavor up a little bit. A classical shore lunch has the fried fish, but we lightened it with a nice clean piece of swordfish. We did a nice Napa cabbage coleslaw, with lime juice and cilantro, to make it really fresh and pop in flavor—and then we used some nice grilled shiitake mushrooms to add some depth to the dish. And we just finished it off with some grilled onions and a lemon beurre blanc—not to go over the top but just to bring all the flavors out.
What's the key ingredient?
I think it’s a really nice quality swordfish. The lime and cilantro and coleslaw is a little bit different, so I think that also contributes to the sweetness of the cabbage. The flavor's a little bit different than what most people are used to—it's not your typical caraway seed or celery seed from your typical coleslaw. We just made a fresh, light coleslaw, not something that lost all its crunch. Not [something that's] really “mayonnaise-y” and lost its flavors.
Do you have a secret technique?
We use a griddle and sear the fish off on both sides—just cook it properly. We bring it to the temperature we want and let it sit. We don’t want to brown it too much, just want to give it some nice color, to replicate that fried fish look. We let it sit, and it steams and just finishes off. We aren’t trying to overcook it but keep it light and flaky, maintaining all the moisture in the fish. Fried fish tends to have that crunch on the outside and be moist on the inside, and that’s what we are trying to achieve.
Had you ever made this dish before, and how do your other customers like it?
I’d never made this dish before. Out of all the fish dishes, this is by far the most popular.
What will be your next best dish?
I'm trying to do up stuff for spring and summer—crab and zucchini salad maybe—light flavors. I’m also trying to do a quinoa and mushroom salad. It might turn into a vegetable entrée with some sun-dried tomatoes in there.
Photograph: Anna Knott