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Yes, you can make chili from swordfish

Swordfish chili from Clean Catch.
Swordfish chili from Clean Catch. Jennifer Lover

The one thing that always keeps me warm in these blustery winter months is chili, usually of the beef or turkey variety.

Lucky for me, when we were snowed in a couple of weeks ago, Clean Catch Fish Market remained open despite the wind and ice. Besides being a full-service fish market that stocks the highest-quality sustainable seafood, they also offer a fantastic selection of prepared foods created by in-house chefs.

What grabbed my attention were the containers of freshly made swordfish chili. It honestly has never crossed my mind to make chili with fish, but it is some of the best (and most unique) chili I have ever had.

After a little persuading, I was able to talk owner Bill Ryan into sharing the recipe. His chef de cuisine, Charles Reid, walked me through the steps and answered several of my questions.

“Charlie, are you sure it’s a 1/2 cup of garlic?”

“Yes, I am sure.”

“And a whole habanero?”

“Yes, Jen.”

The recipe does pack quite a punch, which is how I like it. The habaneros they use are from a local Charlotte grower and have a great balance of heat and flavor. If you like less spice, I would suggest using only one jalapeño and half of the habanero.

For those of you who might be under a time crunch, it is easy to shorten the preparation time. The flavors definitely develop during the two-hour simmer and a night in the refrigerator, but I taste-tested throughout the process and thought it was nearly as delicious after 20 or 30 minutes. Chili also stands up to freezing well, so it’s an option to make it ahead of time, cool, and freeze it in plastic containers. (Transfer the container to the refrigerator to defrost the night before serving).

You can shave off even more time by having Clean Catch grind the swordfish for you. When I asked Ryan if they would be willing to take care of that step, he said, “We sure will! We’ll do anything for our customers.”

Are you looking for a recipe from a Charlotte-area restaurant? Send your request to Jennifer Lover, or on Instagram (@jenniferlover). Please include your name, why you like the recipe, the area where you live and the restaurant’s location. Lover is a creative director, stylist and cook who lives in Charlotte.

Clean Catch Fish Market

2820 Selwyn Ave. 704 333-1212

Clean Catch Swordfish Chili

1/2 cup olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced small

1/2 cup garlic, finely chopped

2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced

1 habanero pepper, minced with seeds

2 tablespoons ancho chile powder

2 tablespoons ground coriander

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 pound swordfish, finely ground in a food processor

1 quart canned tomatoes with juice, roughly chopped

1 cup Great Northern beans, cooked and chilled (see note)

Juice of 1 lime

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and sweat the onions, garlic and chiles until they just begin to turn translucent. Add the spices and cook 10 minutes longer.

Remove the onion and spice mixture from the pot with a slotted spoon and stir in the swordfish (add a little more olive oil if needed). Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the swordfish is cooked through, approximately 5-10 minutes. Return the the sautéed onions, peppers and spices to the pot and add in tomatoes. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Add the white beans and stir until heated through. Add lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. The chili is best when allowed to rest in the refrigerator overnight and reheated, although you can serve it right away.

Note: Cooked dried beans are preferable, but rinsed and drained canned beans also work.

Yield: 6 cups, or 4 large bowls.