By the Sword

The triumphant return of Atlantic swordfish

Dense, rich, versatile meat is swordfish's great appeal.

It's also what led to its near demise. Skyrocketing popularity in the 1980s and '90s led to overfishing, which significantly depleted the swordfish population. Then, in 1998, the Natural Resources Defense Council launched its "Give Swordfish a Break" campaign.

The seafood community, including 700 chefs across the country, joined together in a herculean preservation effort that closed parts of the Atlantic to fishing, banned the sale of Atlantic swordfish and removed it from restaurant menus.

Today, Atlantic swordfish are back, with estimates that put their stock levels at five percent beyond the target number. As a result, chefs–even those in restaurants known for their fastidious sourcing–have reinstated swordfish on their menus.

At Bayona in New Orleans, Susan Spicer serves it grilled with a polenta cake and zucchini-tomato salsa at lunch and with caponata and lemon butter at dinner. Chicago's The Publican sources its swordfish from off the coast of Florida, grilling it with light seasoning and a garnish of citrusy gremolata.

To make it at home, follow Prune chef Gabrielle Hamilton's lead. The New Yorker's penchant for bright, simple flavors is in full effect in this pan-seared local swordfish with a lemon-butter-parsley pan sauce and potato slaw (click here to download the recipe), which requires little more than grating, chopping and a flash in a pan.