Extreme Cuisine – Monkfish

By / Food / March 19th, 2009 / 1

If you’ve ever seen a monkfish you’ll wonder why anyone would even attempt to catch it, let alone eat it. It surely must be one of the ugliest fish in the sea. All head and tail, shark-like teeth and a tentacle growing out of the top of its head, this strange-looking creature likes to bury itself in the offshore sandy bottoms of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans where it lies quietly waiting to ambush prey. The monkfish population had, at one time, reached critically low numbers. But, efforts made by fisheries in the last decade have seen the population rebound to healthy levels.

For most of us, all we see of the monkfish is its meaty tail lying among the other catches-of-the-day at the fishmonger’s. All you need to do is peel the skin away with a paring knife, then pull off the silver membrane. Its white flesh is firm and mild-tasting, and because the meat is so dense, following an exact cooking time isn’t critical. Monkfish tends to release a lot of fluid as it cooks, so sprinkle the fish with salt about an hour before cooking. This draws out any excess moisture. Pat it dry, and you’re ready to go.

Wondering how best to cook it? I’ve included some suggestions below. You’ll find that monkfish is as versatile as any other fish.

Baking

Season the monkfish with salt and pepper. Sear it in a hot, greased pan. Then pour a braising liquid over top, such as wine and fish stock flavoured with herbs. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 10 minutes per inch of thickness.

Grilling

Season, then slice the monkfish into serving-size pieces. Place them directly on the hot grill. Baste with your favourite barbecue sauce.

Pan-frying

Season the monkfish, then coat it with flour or bread crumbs. Fry it in a small amount of hot oil, turning it only once halfway through the cooking time.

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