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!