As I drove home after catching my first legal-sized sturgeon in years, I knew that this would be the first dish I’d make with it.
This is one of my all-time favorite fish recipes, and while I designed it for California white seabass, it is especially good with sturgeon. Its origins are Greek, although the original recipe uses shrimp. It has everything you could ask for: A crispy crust, tender fish, a hit of sweetness from the honey and a blast of salty umami from the Worcestershire sauce.
Sturgeon and other firm, meaty fish such as white seabass, swordfish, shark or tuna can be tricky to cook. If you cook them a minute too long, they can get dry and impossibly dense. The texture of these fish is really more like beef than fish, and in fact sturgeon was once called “white beef” back in the early 1900s.
This method has worked well for me many times: Get the pan hot, add oil and then let that get hot. Dust 2-inch chunks of fish in flour, then brown on 3 sides of the cube. If you brown more than that, you run a higher risk of overcooking the fish. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients, toss to combine and you’re done. Stupid easy.
I made this recipe start to finish in a 3 1/2 minute segment for a Tampa TV station last May while I was on book tour. I made it that time with local grouper I’d caught with my friend Jaden Hair. When I added the ouzo to the pan it of course flared up, and that’s when one of my favorite moments of the entire book tour happened. I shouted, “Opa!” (This is a Greek dish, after all) and the TV host shouted, “Oompa Loompa!” I almost pissed myself laughing.
At any rate, give this recipe a go. Sturgeon is admittedly hard to get in stores, so use swordfish. And don’t worry, so long as you buy swordfish that was caught in North American waters, it is sustainable. Our “give swordfish a break” campaign a decade ago worked, and the populations in our waters are in good shape.
I don’t always write quick-and-easy recipes for this site, but this is one of them. Enjoy it while it lasts.
greek honeyed fish
This recipe comes together pretty fast, so have everything ready before you begin. If you can’t get sturgeon, use any other firm fish you can cut into chunks. Or, do as the Greeks do and use shrimp. Try to get fresh oregano if you can find it, but good dried oregano will work, too.
Serve this with rice pilaf, a green salad and some crusty bread. As for a drink, choose a lager beer or a crisp white wine such as a Greek Assyrtiko or an Italian Pinot Grigio.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
- 1 to 2 pounds skinless sturgeon, swordfish, shark or other firm fish
- Flour for dusting
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey, ideally Greek thyme honey
- 1-2 shots of ouzo or other anise-flavored liqueur
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, or 2 teaspoons dried
- Lots of freshly ground black pepper
- Slice the fish into chunks of between 1 1/2 inches and 2 inches across. If you are using shrimp, peel and devein them. Salt the fish well and set aside while you chop the garlic and oregano.
- Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 1 minute. Add the olive oil. Dust the fish pieces in flour, shake off the excess and lay down in the pan. Turn the heat down to medium-high and brown the fish on 3 sides. Move the finished fish to a paper towel to drain.
- Add the garlic and let this fry for 30 seconds to a minute. Do not let it brown. Take the pan off the heat and add the ouzo. It will flare up. Shout, “Opa!” Put the pan back on the heat, turn it to high, and scrape off any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add the Worcestershire sauce and honey and swirl to combine. Let this boil down until its syrupy, then add the fish back along with the oregano. Toss to combine. Turn off the heat, grind fresh black pepper over everything and serve at once.