I discovered monkfish during the 1970s, in Europe, where this boneless and mild-tasting fish is prized for its firm yet tender texture. Called lotte in France, it is also sometimes known as poor man's lobster because its pearly white color and unflaky texture vaguely resemble the meat of a lobster tail.
You see only long, tapering monkfish fillets at the fish counter, never the whole fish, which can be three feet or longer. Also, this Atlantic native is startlingly ugly. A voracious species, it has an immense head with an enormous, wide mouth full of pointy, sharp teeth. Also called angler-fish, it brandishes its own "fishing pole," an antenna-like projection on top of its head, used to attract its prey, mainly other fish. Its other names are goosefish and bellyfish, presumably thanks to its huge appetite, which some believe accounts for its pleasant flavor.
Europeans prepare monkfish with the same care as Dover sole. I have had it studded with garlic and roasted over fennel, like a leg of lamb, and embellished with a classic crayfish sauce. Though it was rarely seen in America in the past, I have recently enjoyed it in many different restaurants. At one, medallions of monkfish were served on a bed of smoky, dark green French lentils.
Monkfish has increased considerably in price from its cost in the 70s, and is now around eight dollars a pound. When buying it, ask if the thin membrane encasing the filet can be removed so you do not have to do it.
When ready to prepare it, trim away any purple spots, which are fine for eating but turn brown in cooking. You can roast monkfish, poach or braise it in whole filets, or cut the pearly white flesh into inch-thick medallions, as in this dish. Its mild flavor requires an interesting accompaniment, like these colorful roasted tomatoes stuffed with vegetables, and drizzled with warm sherry vinegar.
Roasted Monkfish with Tomatoes and Red Pepper
Makes 4 servings.
- 4 medium tomatoes, halved crosswise
- 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch strips
- 1 medium Spanish onion, cut in 1/2-inch wedges
- 3 peeled garlic cloves
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and white pepper, to taste
- 12 slices trimmed monkfish, about 1 lb.
- Canola oil spray
- 1/2 cup sherry vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, coat the tomato halves, red pepper, onion, and garlic clove with the oil. Arrange them in one layer on a baking sheet with tomatoes cut-side up. Lightly sprinkle with salt. Roast the vegetables 15 minutes. Transfer the tomatoes to a plate, cut-side down and cover with foil to keep warm. Roast the remaining vegetables 15 minutes longer, until tender but still firm. Set aside, leaving the oven on.
- Coat an oven-proof skillet with cooking spray. Spray the fish with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Place it in the pan and set over high heat for 1 minute. Transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake the fish 6 to 8 minutes, or until opaque in the center. The fish will curl up into nuggets resembling lobster meat.
- Meanwhile, scoop out and discard the center of the tomato halves, leaving any juices. Chop the vegetables to resemble chunky salsa. Spoon them into the tomato halves. Boil the vinegar and sugar in a small pan over high heat until syrupy, like a sauce, about 2-3 minutes.
- Place two tomato halves on each of four dinner plates. Add 3 nuggets of fish to each plate. Drizzle the vinegar sauce over the food. Serve immediately.
Nutritional Information Per Serving:
6 g. total fat,
Less than 1 g. saturated fat,
16 g. carbohydrate,
18 g. protein,
2 g. dietary fiber,
28 mg. sodium.
Diabetic Exchanges: 2-1/2 Medium-Fat Meat, 2 Vegetable, 1/2 Bread/Starch
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