Grill fish steaks for easy summer dinner

Jun. 14, 2013
05152013kf Grilled Fish Steaks
Sesame seeds create a crust on grilled ahi tuna.John Samora/The Arizona Republic

How to buy fish

Buying fresh fish steaks can be tricky. Here are a few buying tips:
• Fresh fish smells briny, but not “fishy.”
• Pass on slimy steaks. The flesh should be firm to the touch.
• The quality of much of today’s frozen fish is just a tad off of fresh. Stock your freezer with favorite varieties and defrost just before grilling. If in doubt, ask the fishmonger which variety is the freshest.
• Grill as soon as possible, within 24 hours of buying.
Follow these grilling tips for moist, flavorful fish steaks:
• To prevent fish from sticking, clean the grill well. Next, oil liberally and allow it to heat up. Hot grates make for instant sear, preventing both the flesh and skin from sticking. Medium-high typically is the best temperature.
• Position the fish so it lies across the grill bars, not alongside them. The less metal in contact with the meat, the less the chance for sticking.
• Once the fish is on the grill, leave it in place for the first few minutes. Moving too soon also causes fish to stick to the grill.
• Be gentle with fish. Use tongs and a spatula to turn it. First, try turning it gently with tongs, but if the fish sticks slightly, slide a thin spatula underneath the steak to turn.
• Finally, when handling the fish, proceed slowly and gently.


Grillers, like fishermen, like to tell the story about the one that got away. The fish whose flesh stuck to the grate or the fillet that crumbled into the coals.

“I hear it all the time. Someone tries to grill fish and it turns out a mess, so they never try again,” chef Eric Naddy said.

With the right choice of fish and proper technique, there’s nothing intimidating about grilling fish, said Naddy, who teaches fish-cooking classes at Sweet Basil Gourmetware and Cooking School in Scottsdale, Ariz., and owns Tall Order Catering in Chandler, Ariz.

First, choose steaks over fillets for grilling. Fillets are cut parallel to the bone, making them delicate and flaky. Fish steaks are cross-cut, making them sturdier, firmer and better-suited for grilling. Tuna, salmon, mahi-mahi, marlin, swordfish and halibut are a few of the top choices for fish steaks.

Steaks from the ocean can be grilled almost bare — just a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper — or jazzed up with a marinade, sauce, crust or rub. Marinating beef steaks tenderizes tough cuts, but marinades simply enhance the flavor of fish. Marinade no longer than 30 minutes.

Sesame-crusted ahi tuna with ginger dressing and bok choy

For the ginger dressing:

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 cup peanut oil (can substitute olive oil)

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine ingredients in a non-reactive bowl; whisk until well blended. Chill or serve at room temperature.

For the tuna and bok choy:

4 sushi-grade ahi tuna steaks

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1/4 cup sesame seeds

4 baby bok choy, halved lengthwise

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sprinkle tuna on all sides with about half the salt and all the pepper. Drizzle all sides with sesame oil. Pour sesame seeds into a shallow dish. Press tuna firmly into the seeds, coating all sides. Fill a large bowl with ice and cold water.

Bring a medium stockpot two-thirds full of water to a boil; add remaining salt. Blanche bok choy 1 minute. With slotted spoon, transfer bok choy to the ice-water bath. When it is completely chilled, drain and set aside.

Preheat a grill to medium-high. Just before grilling, oil the grate where you will place the fish. Grill tuna about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the heat; let rest for 2 to 3 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high. Place drained bok choy cut-side-down in pan. Cook 1-2 minutes, or until cut side is golden brown. Remove from heat.

Divide bok choy among four plates. Rest each fish portion against the bok choy on each plate. Drizzle with ginger dressing. Serve warm or chilled. Makes 4 servings.

Pineapple-citrus Glazed Swordfish With Garlic Snap Peas

For the swordfish and sauce:

1/2 cup pineapple juice

1 lemon, zested and juiced

4 swordfish steaks, about 6 ounces each, 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a non-reactive dish large enough to hold the fish in a single layer, combine the pineapple juice and lemon juice. Add swordfish, cover and refrigerate at least 15 minutes, but no longer than 30 minutes.

Preheat grill to medium-high. In a small bowl, combine lemon zest, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic, sea salt and cinnamon. Reserve 1 teaspoon of the mixture.

Remove fish from marinade. Reserve marinade and add the reserved teaspoon of spice mixture. Rub the rest of the spice mixture generously on all sides of the fish.

Oil the grill grate where you will place the fish. Grill fish 2-3 minutes per side. It should have a firm feeling but not flake. Remove from heat and let rest for 3 to 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a saute pan over medium-high heat, simmer the reserved marinade until reduced by half. Reduce heat to low and swirl in butter until melted and combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the garlic snap peas:

2 teaspoons sesame oil

3 cups sugar snap peas

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium. Add peas; cook and stir for 2 to 4 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, lemon juice, salt and pepper and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and serve immediately with the swordfish, with the sauce spooned on top of the fillets. Makes 4 servings.

Wild Rice-crusted Halibut With Rainbow Chard

For the rainbow chard:

3 bunches (3 pounds total) rainbow chard

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium sweet onions, finely chopped

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

12 cups vegetable stock (homemade or reduced-sodium store-bought)

1/3 cup apple-cider vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Wash chard well. Remove and dice stems and veins; chop leaves. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium. Add onions and saute for 8 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Stir in stock, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.

Cook 30 minutes. Add chard and cook to desired degree of tenderness.

Garnish with Parmesan when served.

For the rice-crusted halibut:

6 halibut steaks

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup rice flour

2 eggs

3 tablespoons half-and-half

2 cups wild rice, cooked

6 tablespoons olive oil

Season halibut with salt and pepper, then dredge in rice flour and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix eggs, half-and-half, salt and pepper. In a wide bowl, mix cooked wild rice with salt and pepper to taste. Dip halibut in egg mixture, then coat with rice, pressing rice onto halibut.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet over medium-high. Place two pieces halibut in pan, sear 2 minutes per side, then move to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining halibut and oil. When all halibut is on the baking sheet, roast until internal temperature registers 145 degrees. Meanwhile, prepare the beurre rouge sauce.

For the tarragon beurre rouge:

1 small shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup red wine

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons or 1 stick) butter, sliced into pats

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped

1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped

In a small saute pan, combine shallot, garlic and red wine. Over medium-high heat, reduce the liquid to almost dry. Remove from heat and swirl in butter until the sauce is uniform and mixed. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and add the herbs.

Serve the fish on a bed of rainbow chard, drizzled with tarragon beurre rouge sauce. Makes 6 servings.

Source: Arizona chef Eric Naddy

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