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Jan 28, 2020
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WINE WITH…Swordfish with Herb Butter

Perhaps this dish should be called “Serendipity Swordfish.”  We’d planned on making beef steaks with herb butter but the swordfish on display at the grocery store looked so appealing that we came home with them instead of steak.  We still had herb butter on our minds, however, so we decided to pursue that idea and use it on the swordfish.  The results were so satisfying that this essentially unplanned recipe is destined to show up in future menus.

Herb butter, sometimes known as “compound butter,” is a wonderful thing.  You can spread it on something as simple as bread or rolls, or tuck into a hot baked potato.  A generous pat of herb butter topping a bowl of warm peas or mixed vegetables boosts flavor and texture.  The herbs can be varied to suit a specific dish.  For lamb chops try butter loaded with mint, parsley and garlic.  A mixture of chives, lemon juice, salt and freshly ground black pepper is great for corn on the cob.  Herb butter with fresh basil or tarragon, along with garlic and lemon zest does wonders for chicken thighs or roast chicken (be sure to tuck some of it under the skin).  For the swordfish, we used citrus to enhance the herbs.

Swordfish With Herb Butter

Serves 4

If the butter is not at room temperature it can be softened in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Repeat the process if it still isn’t soft enough.
1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces/113 grams) at room temperature
1 tablespoon finely minced parsley
2 teaspoons finely minced chives
1 tablespoon finely minced shallot 
½ tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce (or soy sauce)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 ½-2 pounds grilled swordfish
Combine all ingredients except the swordfish, mixing the herbs thoroughly into the butter.  The butter may be chilled as is in a small bowl, or it can be formed into logs by shaping it on a piece of wax paper.  Refrigerate the butter for at least 30 minutes, or until it has solidified.  To serve, divide the butter into four pieces and place each one on top of a serving of warm fish.

*         *         *

Swordfish, being meaty, often goes well with red wine, particularly if the preparation includes tomatoes.  In this case, however, with citrus and green herbs playing a prominent role, white wines become a better choice.  We are recommending one red (for readers who are adamant in their preference for that color), but all things considered, we found whites and rosés to be the best options.



Approx. Price




Russian River Valley

Sonoma County


Brut Rosé








Vivacious, even aggressive with effervescence, this salmon-colored fizz tastes of red berries with a floral accent.  It may be too assertive if sipped on its own, but its magnetism made is a good partner for the swordfish.




Sonoma Coast










Showing the character that millions of people love in Chardonnay—lush fruit enhanced by hints of vanilla and butterscotch from oak—this wine had just the right texture for this dish.  It added muscle, as there is nothing delicate about it.








(Imported by Montcalm Wine Importers)






A completely different style of Chardonnay, this northern Italian rendition tastes light and ethereal, with no evidence of oak, but hints of stony minerality.  It worked just as well as the MacRostie, though for opposite reasons.




Rodney Strong,

Russian River Valley

Sonoma County


Pinot Noir







The one red we are recommending, this Pinot Noir worked because it plays essentially one note—ripe, cherry-scented fruit.  A wine with more earthy secondary notes would have seemed obtrusive.






(New Zealand)

Sauvignon Blanc

“Cellar Selection”


(Imported by Prestige)






Less forward than many Kiwi Sauvignons, this wine displays green, vegetal notes, echoes of grapefruit and other citrus fruits, and a slightly floral bouquet.  It echoed the flavors in the butter, and because it finishes slightly sweet, matched the dish’s inherently creamy character.