Swordfish Tacos Al Pastor

Swordfish Tacos Al Pastor

Swordfish Tacos Al Pastor, Take One Fish: The New School of Scale-to-Tail Cooking and Eating by Josh Niland. Photography by Rob Palmer.

Take One Fish: The New School of Scale-to-Tail Cooking and Eating 

Forget everything you thought you knew about cooking fish with Take One Fish. There are no rules when it comes to fish according to James Beard award-winning chef Josh Niland, only an endless world of possibilities.

With 60 mind-blowing recipes from just 15 global varieties of fish, this cookbook will take you on a gustatory journey—from elaborate to easy, small to large and—always—scale to tail. With flair, colour, and flavour, Take One Fish unpacks each of Josh’s 15 fish to reveal their true culinary potential, from swordfish cotoletta to pot au feu, to tuna mapo tofu to an ethereal raw flounder.

Josh’s multi-award-winning and bestselling book, The Whole Fish Cookbook, revealed the blueprint for a new and unprecedented kind of fish cookery. In this latest book, Josh continues to open our eyes to the potential of fish in the kitchen, starting from the moment we take our fish home and unpack it – yes that’s right: bring it home, take it out of the plastic, let it breathe uncovered in your fridge. Then you are ready.

Celebrate the drips, crunchy bits, burnt edges and imperfections that are so central to Josh’s mission – to get more people having fun with fish ingenuity every day.

Take One Fish: The New School of Scale-to-Tail Cooking and Eating is available at Amazon.com and Indigo.ca.  

Swordfish Tacos Al Pastor

I first tasted tacos al pastor only a few years ago in LA, where they have some unbelievably good taco vendors. Besides the beauty of the spinning pork adorned with a glorious golden pineapple, I was completely mesmerized by the vendor’s muscle memory; it was incredible
to see the speed at which he sliced the pork and presented it in perfectly formed corn tortillas.

While I know that swordfish doesn’t carry the same rich fattiness as pork, I just had to try replicating this absolutely delicious dish using fish and the horizontal rotisserie grill on my barbecue (though a regular grill or griddle pan also works well). I’m really happy with the result.


2½ tablespoons grapeseed oil, plus extra for brushing
8 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon freshly ground cloves
7 dried Guajillo or Ancho chillies, stems and seeds removed, cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) pieces
180 ml (6 fl oz) pineapple juice
80 ml (2½ fl oz/1/3 cup) apple cider vinegar
100 g (3½ oz/1/3 cup) achiote paste sea salt flakes
2 kg (4 lb 6 oz) trimmed swordfish loin, sliced into 3 mm (1/8 in) thick rounds ½ medium pineapple, peeled

To serve

20 warm corn tortillas
1 large onion, finely diced
sea salt flakes
2 bunches coriander (cilantro), stems and leaves coarsely chopped 3 limes, cut into wedges

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat to a light haze. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute until lightly coloured. Reduce the heat to medium, add the oregano, cumin, pepper and clove and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chilli and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or until it begins to blister and bubble. Add the pineapple juice, vinegar and achiote paste and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and stand for 5 minutes.

Pour the chilli mixture into a blender and blitz to a smooth puree. Season well with salt. Decant the marinade into a very clean stainless steel baking tray or clean airtight container. Add the swordfish loin and turn to coat liberally and evenly. Leave uncovered in the fridge to marinate overnight.

The next day, thread the marinated fish onto a vertical/horizontal spit (or onto large metal skewers), folding the rounds over to create half-moons. Alternate the direction of the slices so the finished result is even and the slices are interlocked.

If you are using a charcoal grill, make sure the grill is very hot with evenly burnt-down embers. If you are working with a rotisserie, make sure the coals are spread evenly through the centre of the grill, so the fiercest heat is in the middle.

The key to cooking this dish well is to work over a very high heat—the more caramelization you can achieve on the marinade the better. If the temperature is too low the fish will cook before it has any real colour.

Before grilling the fish, brush the peeled pineapple with a little grapeseed oil. Grill over a medium heat, turning every 3–4 minutes, until it is evenly charred on the outside with tender flesh on the inside. (Alternatively, set the pineapple in the embers and leave for 1 hour until blackened all over.) Set aside.

Brush the skewered swordfish with grapeseed oil and grill over a high heat, turning regularly to allow the fish and marinade to toast and caramelize. The cooking time will vary, depending on the fattiness of the swordfish and the heat of your grill, but it could take between 12–15 minutes.

The best way to check is to insert a probe thermometer close against the skewer: the temperature should not exceed 46-48°C (115-118°F). Too much heat will result in very dry, chalky swordfish. Remove from the grill and rest for 4–5 minutes.

To serve, using a very sharp knife, slice the swordfish off the skewer straight onto warm corn tortillas. Cut the pineapple into thick slices. Top the tortillas with diced onion, salt flakes, a slice of grilled pineapple and chopped coriander, and finish with a big squeeze of lime.

Serve hot with cold beers.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Hardie Grant Books.

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