Swordfish in a Garlicky Broth Bagnara Style
Bagnara Calabra—Bagnara for short—is the center of Calabria’s swordfish fishery, occupying a sliver of Tyrrhenian coast between mountains and sea. From April to July, these giant migratory fish travel along the Costa Viola, between Bagnara and Scilla, on their way to the Strait of Messina. For more than forty years, the town of Bagnara has staged an annual swordfish festival the second weekend in July to honor the local specialty. Thousands of people from all over Italy descend on the town to enjoy fresh swordfish with pasta, or grilled, or steamed by this unusual method common in Bagnara.
You will need a baking dish or lidded casserole just large enough to hold the fish in one layer and a larger flameproof baking dish or roasting pan that can hold the smaller dish in a bath of simmering water.
The thin steaks steam quickly in their own juice, producing an aromatic broth with the mingled flavors of parsley, capers, and garlic. Serve with crusty Italian bread to soak up the tasty broth. American fishmongers slice swordfish too thickly, in my opinion. In Italy, it is always sliced more thinly, so it cooks quickly and remains juicy and tender. If you can only find thick steaks, halve them horizontally with a long, sharp knife. This dish is so delicate and simple that fresh, not frozen, swordfish is a must. You can double the recipe to serve four people, but make sure you have a baking dish large enough to hold all four steaks in one layer, and a deep flameproof roasting pan large enough to hold the baking dish. Struncatura (page 68) or another seafood pasta would be an appropriate first course.
Suggested Wine: Pasetti Zarache, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo A lean, dry white wine from the Trebbiano grape with enough body to stand up to meaty swordfish. Alternate: Dry Chenin Blanc