Saturday, 30 March 2013

Monkfish: The poor man's lobster

If you've ever encountered a monkfish and a lobster in a bar, I'm certain the monkfish was the ugly sister! There's no understating how truly unattractive this fish is! Okay, an unlikely encounter. More likely you'd encounter a monkfish in the North Atlantic, primarily from North Carolina to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. They're harvested fresh for their tails September through April and available frozen all year round. These seabed predators are called monkfish or sea monks for their cloaking ability or ability to camouflage themselves and ambush prey.

In old time Norwegian lore, it was believed that a giant monkfish lurked the Norwegian sea and was often depicted by artists as a steely toothed monster with mouth agape. Many trawlers and scallop draggers once considered them useless bycatch before they gained  popularity among Scandinavian and European families as an affordable alternative to the much more expensive lobster. Despite its regrettable exterior appearance, their tails have a subtle sweet taste and a density similar to the meat of a lobster or scallop. At temperature the meat is white and can be enjoyed with almost any sauce. It can be used as an alternative in almost any imaginable lobster recipe. It's for the similarities the monkfish and lobster share that it gains its alias, "poor man's lobster."

I've had every opportunity to dance with the poor man's lobster and have truly enjoyed the commonality. Like many other seafood ingredients, monkfish has an unforgiving temperature window and must be prepared attentively to truly enjoy its fluffy and dense character. From brothy fish soup recipes to diverse pasta creations from Surf and Turf combinations to saucy staring roles, this lobster like ingredient will intrigue your dinner party guests and spark the dinner table conversation.

It's funny that I have always thought no one ever looked down at a finished plate or ingredient and said, "That looks like crap! I betcha it tastes delicious!" My theory is proven wrong because someone, somewhere and well before my humble existence, netted a monster of the sea that looked like crap but tasted delicious!

Perform a monster makeover of your own and transform a monster of the sea into a gorgeous bacon wrapped medallion and your guests into steely toothed monsters with mouths agape!

You'll need:

500g monkfish tail, sliced lengthwise into 2 fillets
3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
12 thin strips dry-cured smoked bacon
1 small bag baby new potatoes 
300g green beans , trimmed and cut into bite sized diagonal shards 
1 package watercress, snipped
2 cloves garlic, crushed 
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard 
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Boil the new potatoes whole, skins on. Add the green bean shards 3min before the potatoes will be ready. The potatoes should be cooked but firm and beans still crisp. Strain and rinse with warm water. Leave it aside.

Lay the monkfish fillets on a board and sprinkle with thyme leaves. Make sure the fillets are dry. Lay the fillets on top of one another with a tapered end a wide end on each side. Wrap with bacon strips firmly around the fillets with all loose bacon ends on the bottom. On a preheated skillet lined with parchment place the wrapped monkfish roll with bacon ends on the bottom for 8 min or until the bacon crisps. Roll with tongs another 8 min until the bacon is crisp all round. When the fish is firm to touch remove skillet from heat and leave to rest covered.

Mix the crushed garlic, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar and olive oil  for a vinaigrette.

Toss the warm potatoes and beans in the vinaigrette. Divide on to four plates. Scatter fresh watercress on top of each. Slice and place a  2cm thick monkfish medallion on top. Drizzle your dishes with all juices from the monkfish skillet.

Also nice when garnished with oven roasted cherry tomatoes!




  1. Seen you on google+ with the picture of this fish just had to read this article.Nice post.I wish we had these fish here but we don't.

    1. Glad you enjoyed. Thanks Paul.

    2. Had some last night at a restaurant prepared almost exactly like this. Delicious. Probably could stand on its own with drawn butter and some sort of lemon infused sauce maybe?