Combining grilled fish with autumnal ingredients creates a ‘shoulder’ season of taste
From the October 2018 issue
By October, many chefs are overhauling their menus to feature seasonal ingredients such as butternut squash, pumpkin, kale and chard. Entrees are hearty, and sauces get richer.
But Chef James “Jamie” Parsons, who grew up in Lewes, isn’t ready to give up on grilled fish, a summer staple. He marries swordfish with such fall flavors as maple syrup, apples and Brussels sprouts.
Given Parsons’ background, it’s not surprising that he would create such a novel dish. He’s worked for the British-born Jonathan Cartwright, a Five-Diamond awardee from AAA, at the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk, Maine, and celebrity chef and TV personality Todd English, who’s owned multiple restaurants in Boston.
“I’ve cooked my whole life, even when I was a little kid,” he says. In part, he enjoyed bringing recipes from magazines to life. But he also wanted to help his working parents. His father was in the shipping and receiving department of Barcroft Chemical, now SPI Pharma, and his mother sold manufactured homes for Colonial East.
“I would have dinner on the table when they got home,” recalls Parsons, who has a younger brother. Specialties included chicken parmesan, which was perhaps a foreshadowing of his current job as the culinary director of DiFebo’s three restaurants.
As a teen, he worked at the Garden Gourmet, an upscale French-Continental restaurant once located outside Rehoboth Beach and Kupchick’s Restaurant in Lewes.
After more than two decades in New England, Parsons returned to Lewes this past summer to be near his mother. His kids were grown, and his father had died in 2012. Plus, he felt attached to the Delaware coast. “I love the area and the beach,” he says.
He also loves fall dishes. Not only does this recipe boast plenty of seasonal ingredients, it’s also a study of contrasts. Sweet maple syrup mixes with earthy truffles. Snappy apples and sprouts complement the meaty swordfish.
Make the truffle butter yourself or buy it prepared from a high-end grocer, such as The Fresh Market. Either way, this dish is “the height of comfort food,” Parsons concludes.
Grilled Swordfish with Spaghetti Squash
For the spaghetti squash and swordfish:
½ pound of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of black truffle peelings (you can buy truffle peelings on Amazon or in specialty grocery stores)
½ teaspoon of truffle oil
1 medium-size spaghetti squash
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 8-ounce pieces of swordfish
Make a compound butter by whipping unsalted butter with black truffle peelings and truffle oil. Set aside. (You can make this in advance and keep in the fridge.)
Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the pulp and seeds. Brush with olive oil and season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Place the squash face down on a sheet pan. (Use parchment paper for easy cleanup.) Roast in a 350-degree oven until a fork poked into the thickest part of the squash slides in with a slight give. Remove from oven. When it’s cool, use a fork to shred the flesh into spaghetti-like strands; place in a bowl. Discard the shell. (You can roast the squash in advance.)
Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add a small amount of olive oil and the squash. When hot, add about 2 ounces of the truffle butter. Mix until the squash is evenly coated with butter.
Brush the swordfish with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill on preheated, oiled gas grill about five minutes per side. (If you have a thermometer, aim for 145 internal degrees.)
For the glaze:
3 cups of apple cider vinegar
2 ounces of pure maple syrup
1 sprig of thyme
1 shallot peeled and sliced into pieces
1 ounce of unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Pour the vinegar into a small saucepan. Add the maple syrup, thyme and shallot. Reduce by two-thirds. Strain and whisk in the butter. Season. (To make in advance, omit the butter and add only when heating to serve.)
For the apples and Brussels sprouts:
(Make this last, so it stays crisp)
½ cup of apples, peeled, cored and cut into matchstick-size batonnets (French for “little stick,” a batonnet measures ¼ inch by ¼ inch by 2 to 2½ inches)
12 Brussels sprouts, sliced very thinly on a mandoline kitchen grater or by hand
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of Champagne vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine the apples and sprouts with the olive oil and Champagne vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Place squash mixture in the middle of the plate. Divide Brussels sprouts and apple slaw on top. Add swordfish. Drizzle with the maple glaze.