The scents of honey, orange, and thyme instantly evoke the Mediterranean. This easy, lyrical recipe is from Sauc, one of my favorite restaurants in Barcelona. The owner, Xavier Franco, prepares it with gorgeous loins of monkfish. It’s hard in this country to find monkfish that’s high-quality enough to be so simply grilled, so I’ve substituted swordfish. (Grilled or seared scallops or shrimp would also be delicious prepared this way.) The drizzle of fruity olive oil and sprinkling of salt at the end may seem like an afterthought, but their effect is transformational – so get out your best olive oil and flaky sea salt. The amount of honey needed will depend on the tartness of the oranges. Start with a tablespoon and add more until you get a nice balance of sweet and tart.
Yield: Serves 4
4 swordfish steaks (each about 1 inch thick and 6 ounces)
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
Fragrant extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup fresh orange juice (from 4 to 6 oranges)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 to 2½ tablespoons floral honey, such as orange blossom honey
2 small garlic cloves, crushed with a garlic press
1½ pounds thin asparagus, trimmed
½ cup fish stock, store-bought fish stock, or bottled clam juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
1. Rub the swordfish with salt and pepper, brush it generously with olive oil and let stand until ready to use.
2. Place the orange and lemon juices in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until reduced to 1/3 cup, 10 to 12 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, whisk in 1 teaspoon of the honey, and taste the orange sauce; it should be nicely sweet and tart. If it is too tart, add more honey. Let the sauce cook for another minute. Season the sauce with salt to taste and keep warm until ready to serve.
3. Light the grill and preheat it to high or preheat the broiler.
4. Grill the swordfish on an oiled grate positioned 5 inches above the glowing coals, or broil it, until just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. The fish is done when it just flakes when prodded with a fork. Transfer the fish to a plate and cover it with aluminum foil to keep warm.
5. Heat 1½ teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet over high heat with the garlic. Add the asparagus and cook, tossing, for 1 minute. Add the fish stock and thyme and bring to a boil. Cover the skillet and cook the asparagus until it is bright green and crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the asparagus to a plate. Continue to cook the fish stock mixture until it is reduced and syrupy, 3 to 5 minutes. Divide the asparagus among 4 plates and drizzle the fish stock mixture on it. Arrange a fish steak on each plate and drizzle the orange sauce over the asparagus and the fish. Drizzle a little olive oil over each serving and sprinkle sea salt on top. Serve at once.