My wife and I were in the mood for fish the other day, so we did what’s becoming customary for those types of days: We hopped in the car and took a trip down the street to New Hope Seafood Market! As always, we were impressed by their incredible display of fresh fish, and this time, we bought some Monkfish (as well as a crab cake and a NY Strip Steak for another night).
Monkfish is a bit of an enigma, as it’s a white fish, but it doesn’t flake like Cod, Flounder, Haddock, or any other white fish you’d normally think of. Instead, when cooked, its texture more closely mimics that of Sea Scallops or Lobster Tail (so much so that the fish is affectionately referred to as “Poor Man’s Lobster”).
When picking monkfish, freshness is the name of the game. You want to look for meat that’s a pale white all around and smells lightly of salt water. If it smells overly fishy and/or dry or brownish around the edges, wait for another day…your patience will be rewarded (or conversely, your lack of patience will be punished with a lingering pungency in your kitchen after you cook). I only mention this because we’ve gotten old monkfish before, and the aroma was like that unwanted house guest that just wouldn’t leave. Luckily, now that we’ve found our aforementioned fishmonger, this problem is officially a thing of the past for us!
We topped our monkfish with a saffron butter sauce and served it over Harvest Cauliflower Rice. However, this would also go very well with Roasted Asparagus and Roasted Baby Potatoes (since you’ll have the oven on anyway, why not?).
Time: 25 Minutes (Plus overnight Saffron Soak)
- Monkfish (We used about 8oz per serving)
- For the sauce
- Butter (we used about 1/2 tablespoon per serving, but use more if you want it saucier).
- The morning of your meal (or even the night before), heat some water in a small glass bowl (don’t use plastic, or it will stain). Then, add in some saffron stems, and allow to steep for a few hours (the longer, the better if time allows).
- When you’re ready to cook, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and begin to heat a cast iron pan.
- Pull your fish out of the refrigerator, and give the top and bottom a little sprinkle of salt.
- Pour your brilliantly yellow saffron water into a saucepan.
- When your cast iron pan is hot, melt about 1/2-1 tablespoon of butter in it, and then add your fish to the pan. Sear for about 5-6 minutes.
- While your fish sears, bring your saffron water to a simmer and allow it to cook down a bit to concentrate the flavours.
- After 5-6 minutes, flip your fish (adding more butter to that pan as necessary). It should be a nice golden brown on the side that had been searing. Cook for another 5-6 minutes on the other side.
- After your second side has seared, transfer your cast iron pan to the oven and roast for about 10-12 minutes (or until your fish reaches a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees F per a digital meat thermometer). Cooking times will vary based on the thickness of your fish and how hot your cast iron pan was.
- When your fish is done, and you pull it out of the oven, turn your saffron water burner to low, and add in the butter from the “For the sauce” list. Whisk to combine as it slowly melts into a sauce.
- Plate, devour, and enjoy!
Monkfish is Seeteufel in German=Sea Devil. Its meat has hardly any fishbones but a bony spine instead. To me the meat is nearly without taste, although it can be cut into medallions that look like perfect fishsteaks. Here it belongs to the category of Edelfische or gourmet fish. I find it too bad that some of the gourmet fish need elaborate sauces to really shine, and the monkfish fits that bill. Skrei (Norwegian cod) belongs to that group as well. I personally prefer fish with more pronounced flavors such as sea bream (Dorade in German) or sea bass (Wolfsbarsch), which taste great with just a little lemon juice. Even though some fish can taste wonderful with a little sauce, and yours is a classic, I really prefer the simpler variations. Some exceptions stand out. Pikeperch (Zander) in sauce grenoble, a sauce made from melted butter, lemon rind and juice with capers -is very unique and delicious!
You are very right about letting natural flavor shine. Sometimes simple is best. We wanted to try to build a subtle sauce that would be able to come in and save the day if needed since Monkfish can dry out so quickly. I haven’t had sea bream in a while…thank you for the reminder…I’m overdue!