Swordfish with Aji Panca Paste

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“There are worms in the fish!”

I turned to Steve with a look of horror and sadness. Horror because, well, there were worms in the fish. And sadness because I was so hungry and ready to eat something that the thought of throwing away the fish, just as I was ready to cook it was really dispiriting.

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Let me start from the beginning. I had prepared a marinade using Aji Panca paste, made with a peruvian pepper that is immensely packed with flavor, combining sweetness, heat, and smoke. I bought two super fresh swordfish steaks and marinated them in it for two hours. I had just taken them out of the fridge and was ready to place them in a pan coated with hot oil when I noticed something white and and squirmy on the surface of the fish. Then I saw another one in the marinade.

Worms!

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After the initial shock and overcoming the instinctive reaction of throwing everything out, we went to Google for some more information. Turns out, worms called roundworms are commonly found in fish flesh. In fact, there is a standard process for removing them in seafood processing facilities called candling. The fish fillets are examined under strong light which the worms are attracted to. This only gets rid of the ones on the surface though, leaving those buried deeper in the flesh. We also learned that they are generally harmless to humans, especially if the fish is cooked to 140 degrees or more.

So, feeling a little calmer and happy we didn’t just throw everything out, we removed the worms we could see, we cooked the swordfish (a little more than we would have usually), and enjoyed it with some zucchini fries. And probably some marinated worms to go along with it.

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Swordfish with Aji Panca Paste Adapted from Epicurious.com

Ingredients:

1/2 cup aji panca paste
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 (6-oz) steaks swordfish
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions:

1. Combine all marinade ingredients (from aji panca paste to garlic). Add swordfish and marinade in refrigerator, covered, for 2 hours, turning once or twice.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in large non-stick pan and cook swordfish on both sides until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the steaks.

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