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Monkfish: Looks Like Monster, Tastes Like Lobster

Updated on May 31, 2010

There are no two ways about it. The monkfish is ugly. It has long, hostile spines and a big space-alien head. You may have seen it in an aquarium under its alias, anglerfish. Fortunately, by the time you see it at the fish counter it just looks like fish fillets.

Even in its filleted form, monkfish is a bit different from other fish. It has a mild, not-too-fishy flavor and a firm, succulent texture that earns it comparisons to lobster. It not only takes longer to cook than most fish, it doesn't overcook as easily.

And there's one other advantage to monkfish; it's cheap. It wasn't long ago that monkfish was considered a "trash" fish and, although it's gained respectability in the last decade or so, it still hasn't made the upper echelons of fish society where salmon and tuna dwell. If salmon are the football players of fish school, monkfish are on the math team.

There aren't many of us who wouldn't benefit from spending some time with the math team, so get to know monkfish.

Before you cook monkfish, make sure to remove the purple parts and the silvery membrane. You can use the trimmed fish in large, steak-like pieces, or cut it into smaller medallions.

Roasting: Monkfish will take about 20-30 minutes to roast in a 425 degree oven. To give it a nice brown color, try first dredging the fish in flour and black pepper and searing it on the stovetop in a little olive oil. Two or three minutes per side will brown the fish. Roast the fish with other vegetables that roast in that time, like green beans or bell peppers, or give longer-cooking vegetables a head start.

Steaming: 15 minutes is usually sufficient to steam monkfish. Chilled cooked monkfish is mild enough to work well in a vegetable or pasta salad.

Broiling or grilling: Each takes about 10 minutes. Try either method for cooking skewers of monkfish chunks with onions, green peppers, and cherry tomatoes.

Soups and stews: Monkfish's succulent texture makes it ideal for long-cooking dishes like stews and soups. Use it in cioppino, bouillabaisse, chowder, gumbo, or curry.

Now that you're no longer a stranger to monkfish's charms (beauty is only delicious skin deep) check out this phenomenal Rumaki recipe.

2 pounds monkfish fillets with the membranes removed, sliced into 1/2-inch squares
6 bacon slices sliced into 1/2-inch squares.
1 large head of radicchio which has been very thinly sliced
½ Cup Honey Mustard Sauce

Sauté the bacon in a cast iron frying pan over medium to high heat until brownish and crisp, about 7 minutes. Dry the bacon on a plate covered with paper towels. Pour off except a couple of tablespoons of bacon drippings from the pan. Add the fish and sauté until just barely cooked through, about one and a half minutes. Transfer the fish to the bacon plate. Tent with aluminum foil.

Toss radicchio and 1/4 cup Honey Mustard Sauce into the pan until the radicchio wilts which should be about 2 minutes.

Place the fish on a plate. Toss the bacon into the pan with the radicchio. Give it a quick flip or two then spoon the mixture around the fish. Drizzle the other ¼ cup of sauce all over and enjoy!

One last monkfish tip: If you use whole fillets, make sure you score the thickest parts to prevent them from curling up as they cook. It can be alarming to open the oven and find giant wormlike fish spirals. There! Now, you're ready for monkfish.

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    • profile image

      jenn 

      7 years ago

      In Boston we go to a restaurant sometimes called the daily catch/ the calamari cafe. It's a total hole-in-the-wall dive restaurant in the North End, but it's delicious. They only serve seafood and we sometimes order the Monkfish Marsala. It's really delicious. If you are ever in Boston I recommend you check it out.

    • lender3212000 profile image

      lender3212000 

      8 years ago from Beverly Hills, CA

      Wow, that is one seriously ugly fish! I'd probably give it a shot as long as I didn't have to see it looking back at me as I was preparing it. A lot of stuff like that ends up being surprisingly good.

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