Grilled Sesame-Soy Fish Steaks with Ginger Cilantro Butter

Here's a way to give grilled meaty fish steaks a blast of flavor. Marinate them in a mixture of sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and garlic. Topping them with a dollop of ginger cilantro butter elevates the fish to dinner party status. I already know your question and the answer is: Italian parsley or any favorite green herb can be substituted for the cilantro. 

This is my very favorite way of preparing fish steaks, especially tuna, swordfish and shark. Their firm and meaty texture soaks up zesty marinades like this Oriental one.  If you cook Asian dishes, these are probably ingredients you already have in your pantry and fridge. This recipe works best with fish steaks that are about 1-1/2-inches thick. At that thickness you can grill the steaks long enough to give them a nice charred color and smokey flavor.  But the marinated fish are so tasty that when I don't feel like grilling, I cook them on a grill pan on my stove. Talk about a go-to recipe. This is definitely one of mine.

If you are wondering how long to marinate fish, let me remind you of the saying that more is not always better. A long time ago, but still very vivid in my memory, I was having a dinner party and decided that if 4 to 6 hours was good to marinate fish steaks, 8 hours would be even better.  Those of you who have made this same mistake are either laughing or gasping right now.  Over-marinating breaks down the fish's fibers and turns its flesh into mush. Definitely not one of my more successful dinner parties. 

Because fish steaks are dense and tend to be a little dry, they taste great when topped with a dollop of gingery butter. The butter melts over the hot fish coating it in a delicious creamy sauce.   

Here are a few simple rules for marinating and cooking thick-cut fish steaks successfully.  

  • Marinate them for at least 4 hours but no more than 6. 
  • Leave the skin on when you grill and then take it off to serve. The rubbery skin keeps the meat moist whIle cooking.
  • Cook them like you would a rare steak: Sear over high heat so they will be a little bit rare in the center. 
  • For a 1 1/2-inch thick steak, cook approximately 5 to 6 minutes on one side. Then flip and cook 4 to 5 minutes on the other side. With this timing, the inside will still be moist. 

Grilled Sesame-Soy Fish Steaks with Ginger-Cilantro Butter

¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 swordfish, tuna or shark steaks, 1-1/2 inches thick (3 to 3 1/2 lbs.)

¼ lb. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 ½ tablespoons minced fresh ginger
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro or Italian parsley
Dash cayenne

  1.  To make marinade, mix all ingredients but fish in a small bowl.
    MAKE AHEAD:  Marinade may be refrigerated up to one week.
  2. To marinate fish, put steaks in a shallow glass dish or large, heavy plastic bag.  Pour marinade over, reserving 1/3 cup for basting. Turn fish to coat both sides. Marinate covered in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours, turning once.
  3. To make butter, in a small bowl stir butter, ginger and cilantro or parsley together until well blended. Season with salt and cayenne, to taste.
    MAKE AHEAD: Butter may be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature.
  4. Oil grill rack and arrange 3 to 4 inches from coals. Prepare coals. Grill fish for 5 to 6 minutes on one side, basting once or twice.  Turn and grill for 4 to 5 minutes on second side, basting once. Transfer fish to plates and top each serving with a generous tablespoon of butter.

Makes 6 servings.

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