Simply food

MARVELLOUS MONKFISH

Monkfish fillets freeze well, so I always have some on hand for an emergency. Today we have unexpected guests and I’m going to offer them this tender fish that tastes a bit like lobster, with no fishy taste. It’s perfect for those who don’t really like fish.

Delicious white slices of monkfish fillet

This fish is very popular in the Atlantic coast countries of Europe, such as Portugal, Spain and especially France where it is called lotte, and to a degree in the UK. They have their fans in the Antipodes as well, with the fish usually caught in deep cold waters off southern New Zealand. There it is known as stargazer.

The trick with monkfish is not to overcook it, or it might turn rubbery. That’s another reason to marinate the delicious pearly white flesh lightly before cooking.

The before picture: a monster revealed

I’m not sure where this recipe came from, but I’ve had it for a while, though somehow it escaped my cookbooks. Every time I make it, people comment on how flavourful it is. The recipe suits a solid white fish that doesn’t go flaky, so it would be excellent with sablefish, also known as black cod, though that species is not part of the cod family. At one time black cod was thought to be on the endangered list, but stocks in the Atlantic and Alaska are currently sustainable.

If it seems odd to pair a tomato based sauce with fish, remember that in Italy a marinara sauce goes with everything. That’s probably the origin of this dish.

Monkfish is almost always sold prepared as a fillet, with the huge head and jaws removed. It really looks like a monster when you see one whole. It is from the anglerfish family, that lurk on the sea bottom with their toothy mouths open, walking across the bottom on their sturdy flippers. They can eat their catch whole and apparently feed voraciously. The skin is tough and hard to remove, so it is best left to the fishmonger to deal with it. All we eat is the tail, which keeps well in the freezer. There are no bones in monkfish, just a single solid spine down the tail. The fillets come from each side of the spine, so each fish delivers two fillets. If the tail comes whole, carefully cut the spine out and separate into two.

MONKFISH IN TOMATO SAUCE

Shopping list

  • 4 monkfish fillets, about 6 oz / 170 g each, cleaned and washed
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 can / 2 cups / 28 oz / 796 ml crushed tomatoes
  • 2 garlic heads, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 TBSP paprika
  • EVOO
  • Salt and pepper

Garnish

  • Parsley, chopped
  • 1 TBSP garlic slices, golden
  • 8-12 cherry tomatoes, roasted

Preparation and cooking

  1. Wash the monkfish fillets and make sure all the gray membrane has been removed. If necessary, trim them into equal sized portions, one for each person. Place them in a bowl and squeeze the lemon juice all over. Season well with salt and pepper. Marinate for 30 mins in the fridge.
  2. To make the sauce, first heat some EVOO in a heavy bottomed pan, add the peeled, sliced garlic and cook slowly, stirring frequently, until it is golden brown. Reserve a TBSP of garlic slices for garnish. Add chopped onions and cook until transparent. Deglaze the pan with wine and cook until the alcohol has boiled off, making sure to scrape the ‘fond’ off the bottom of the pan.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F.
  4. Add crushed tomatoes and paprika and simmer until the sauce has reduced by 25 percent. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Keep the sauce warm.
  5. In a cast iron frying pan (that can go into the hot oven) heat some more EVOO. Lay the four fillets in the pan and brown them for about 2 mins. Add the washed and dried cherry (or grape) tomatoes to the pan. Turn the fish over and place them in the pan in the oven. Roast until the fish is just cooked through, about 15 mins. The tomatoes should be cooked and wrinkly.
  6. Transfer the fish to a board and slice each fillet into bite sized rounds. Spoon the sauce onto four warmed plates. Set the fish rounds nicely on top of the sauce. Garnish with two or three roasted cherry tomatoes, chopped parsley and finish with a pinch of golden garlic slices. Serve at once.

NOTE: Always try to cook with a wine good enough to drink. In this recipe a sauvignon blanc works well, and you can finish off the bottle with the meal.

Featured image: monkfish served on a tomato and garlic sauce

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This is Nigel’s 344th blog on Gentleman’s Portion. The SEARCH function at the top works really well if you want to look back and see some of his previous stories. The link to Gentleman’s Portion: The Cookbook is now live, well priced at $9.99 or £9.99 and available on AmazonApple Books, Barnes & NobleGoogleKobo and Scribd.

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