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Hey, Hey, We’re The Monkfish! June 2, 2008

Posted by Jim Berkin in Cooking, Food.
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Don’t they all look like they’re yelling at you angrily?

First, a quick 2012 update to this post: This post is consistently among the top hits in my stats here as the result of a search for “monkfish” in search engines – if you are here, please comment on this post & tell me why you came here from all the search results you found. I’m extremely curious, thanks! Oh, and as long as you ARE here, click here to buy my comic mystery novel on Amazon – you’ll love it, it’s really funny and will keep you guessing! Thanks! And now, back to monkfish….

When I was a kid, monkfish was relatively cheap and often referred to as “the poor man’s lobster.” Now I wind up plunking down $16 a pound for the stuff freshly flown in from the East (and boy, are its fins tired.)

I’ve NEVER found monkfish to taste like lobster or come close to the unique texture and consistency of properly cooked Maine lobster tail (my absolute favorite dish in the world, if you must know), but I DO find monkfish pretty damn delicious, despite their obvious objections above. The fillets are slightly more rubbery than a thick piece of halibut and have a silverskin that ought to be removed before beginning any recipe – but it’s worth it in the end.

First, a couple of recent monkfish dishes I tried with pasta that had mixed results. Dish Number One was Monkfish Meatballs with a marinara sauce. For one serving (Feel free to send me bimbos and/or kitties to cure my lonliness – otherwise, my recipe proportions will remain as such) I coarsely chopped a half pound monkfish fillet (you could use a food processor if you DON’T want the exercise) and then mixed it with 1/2 of a beaten egg, salt, pepper, about 1/4 teaspoon of chopped capers, a teaspoon of chopped basil, and 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs that I had soaked/softened in white wine, draining the excess before adding the slop into the monkfish along with everything else, mixing it all together into a meatball batter and forming 5 meatballs with it. I put them on a plate, covered them with plastic wrap, and let them sit in the ‘fridge for a half hour. To cook them, simply heat some marinara sauce to a simmer in a wide saucepan, place the meatballs on top of the sauce like you’re poaching eggs, and cover for another half hour. Then toss it with some cooked pasta.

While this came out pretty well, I discovered that even as much as the texture of monkfish does not match lobster, I like the texture of monkfish fillet better than monkfish meatball. So bearing that in mind, I went back to the drawing board and came up with another pasta concoction that’s beyond simple:

I cut a monkfish fillet in half lengthwise, and then into 1/4 inch slices. These are then seasoned with salt and pepper, and marinated in a little white wine and minced garlic. Saute the fish in some olive oil over medium heat until it’s about 3/4 done, add the juice from one can of chopped clams, a splash of the white wine, a few drops of worcestershire, and some basil – bring to a boil and then simmer until the fish is about done – then add the chopped canned clams, give it a stir and toss with some freshly cooked pasta. You could also throw all sorts of other fish/shellfish into this one, the “when” of which is determined only by the cooking time of it.

When I make monkfish without pasta, it’s another simple recipe: I cut the fillet into medallions as above, and saute them until done in lots of melted butter with a little salt and pepper. That’s it – no frills, no over-doing it – keep it pure. Serve it with white rice or mashed potatoes. It’s the closest thing to the idea of “poor man’s lobster,” even if it’s still not close enough for me… it’s still good stuff.

Aww…. feel bad about eating it after seeing that row of angry faces above? Well, remind yourself that it’s also called a lawyerfish and chow down. Yum!

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Comments»

1. Mike - August 7, 2010

Amazing photo.

2. jack jenkins - July 11, 2011

when i was in the air force in the 60’s stationed at langley field, we caught these things while we were striper fishing in the york river at a naval weapons station north of langley. we just through them back not knowing what they were and sure never thought about eating one of them. i did eat some, years later and liked it real well. jj

IAIN - February 10, 2012

dude epic history and damn “if” u ate them back then imagine the world of amazing dishes that would be out there now!

I tried all recipes up the top as i have never eaten and wanted to try and love the lot of em..

SHOULD TRY IT WITH LOBSTER, PASTA SAUCE, A CUP AND A 1/2 OF FISH STOCK, FRESH CUT CHILLI IF YOU LIKE (DESEEDED) AND PUT A CLOVE OF FRESH GARLC SLICED THINLY , STALK OF PARSLEY IN THE MIX WITH A 1/2 CUP OF WHITE WINE, DAMN DELICIOUS !

3. Trina - August 29, 2012

How’d I get here? A Turkish friend of mine just posted pictures of a huge monkfish he caught … I wanted to see if they were all that ugly/freaky-looking.

Jim Berkin - August 29, 2012

Hmm… it seems like that picture is certainly drawing people in! If only those fish were all screaming “Buy Berkin’s novel!”

4. Jorgos - October 6, 2012

I was in a fish restaurant in Bergen(Norway) and I wondered, if the “monkfish” I had was this fish or not… ugly as hell, but tasteful 🙂

5. M - October 8, 2012

I’m here from a “monkfish” search! I was telling my kid about when I was in culinary school and we had to butcher one of these- everyone in my class was horrified (we all still did it for the grade though). Gawd, those thing are horrifying. But yummy.
And “hey hey we’re the monkfish” is so so funny.

6. Corrodias - October 11, 2012

Reason for this search result choice: the image, third of four images on the regular result page, is the largest and clearest of them.

Jim Berkin - October 11, 2012

That certainly seems to be the reason for the constant links to this post! Now if I can figure out a way to make my book rank as high on Google…

7. anthony - November 18, 2012

i was out fishing indian river lagoon last night when i caught what i now know to be a “monkfish” im new to fishing and it was 3 am when i caught this thing, scared the hell out of me. i didnt even want to touch it lol. But after many googled searches of “ugly fish” i found what i caught and googled “monkfish”. your picture was the obvious choice. good work

8. Elizabeth - November 19, 2012

I’m here because I had a meal of monkfish this weekend at The Optimist restaurant in Atlanta. It was delicious, and had a giant, distinctly un-fish-like bone poking out of it, so I had to see what it looked like.

Jim Berkin - November 20, 2012

Was the un-fish bone poking out a human skull? If so, dinner might not have been monkfish.

Toute Swite - November 23, 2012

Julia Child is what brought me here – I was looking at the Smithsonian page, it mentioned an episode of her cooking show where she featured Monkfish. So of course, I had to see what one looked like after reading her comments.

9. tim - November 30, 2012

I googled monkfish because i wanted to show my friends who play runescape what monkfish looks like out of game

10. David Lewis - January 19, 2013

My dad posted on facebook that he was cooking monkfish, and that it was like lobster… my brother respond good tasting but ugly.. thought I would check it out… my brother was right (and I don’t say that often) Thanks for sharing your picture. David – San Diego, CA

11. Giuliana S (@bassavina) - February 15, 2013

Read a description of monkfish and had to see how ugly it was. That
is how I got here.

12. MARION - March 5, 2013

My boyfriend said Monfish was the ugliest fish ever (he’s from Boston area) and I said that the Sheepshead off Catalina Island is the ugliest so I’m googling – I think he won the bet!

Pat - August 21, 2014

sheepshead are pretty fish!!

13. joe - March 9, 2013

runescape brought me here.

14. tanya reinhart - May 10, 2013

i had this fish as a kid,they called it poor mans lobster i was looking for a recipe and found these vile things i cant believe something so tasy looks so scary!!!!

15. Deborah - August 11, 2013

Agu jjim – a Korean dish prepared with Monkfish, red chili paste, bean sprouts and other seasonings is absolutely amazing. It is also very low in calories. Delicious!

16. casualtyfilms - May 16, 2014

Had it for the first time last night for my Dinner on my 50th birthday. Mmmm…very delicous!

17. Steffen Sipe Stubø - June 6, 2014

search for monkfish gave me this cool photo. Beyond that I have absolutely no interest in you or your publications, but did do a simple search to make sure the penultimate statement in this post was accurate.

18. Julie Miller - June 21, 2014

Hi Jimberkin:
I used (and credited!) your photo on my blog post about agu jjim (http://morningcalmtravel.com/travel-blog/2014/6/22/agu-jjim-), which is a spicy korean dish made with monkfish, sea squirts, and bean sprouts. I also linked to your site from the photo and mentioned in a comment. Thanks for the meatball & pasta ideas! After making agu jjim, I still have some monkfish leftover. I will try one of these!


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