Monday, July 30, 2007


Monkfish Brodetto

Between the ages of 11 and 22, I could not eat fish, or any seafood for that matter. I was suddenly allergic to it during the onset of puberty and couldn't tolerate it in any form, though I happily ate fish as a younger kid, being from the island nation of New Zealand. My angelheart Eric has tried over the years to get me to eat seafood, from sweet and properly cooked shrimp (until coral-coloured) to the mildest of most fish, cod, battered and fried or steamed en papillote with rice wine, vegetable greens of some variety, and citrus. I've come leaps and bounds in the last year or so, handling most mild fish, including their skin (though some species are still too fishy and just about make me gag at the mere inhalation of them miles away - only a slight exaggeration) and loving jumbo shrimp, crab, and lobster.

Now that I love lobster, I am reminded of an episode of Lidia's Family Table on PBS that I saw last year. I took note of this episode because Lidia Matticchio Bastianich called monkfish an ugly fish with a tail that tastes like lobster. Back then, I wasn't thinking of it as something I would like as I had not yet entered the world of lobster, but as something Eric might want to try - he did and loved it. Before following this recipe, I had not yet tried monkfish, and I was keen to compare its taste and texture to lobster. Also, brodetto, which is to say a savory, brothy preparation, is a perfect way to serve fish, for it is usually applied to accent it.

Monkfish Brodetto
(From Lidia Mattichio Bastianich's Lidia's Family Table)

8 cloves of garlic, peeled
3 cups and 3/4 cup water
1 3/4 pounds monkfish, membrane removed if the fishmonger hasn't done it
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
3/4-1 1/2 cups canola oil
2 tablespoons butter, cubed
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 cup white wine
1/8 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/8 cup basil leaves, shredded

1) Put the garlic in 1 1/2 cups water and boil for 15 minutes. Drain, then boil again in another 1 1/2 cups water for 30 minutes.
2) Puree the garlic cloves with a few drops of the liquid in which the cloves boiled. I actually used all of the liquid to make more of a garlic liquid as opposed to a garlic puree, preferring to dilute the flavour a little as I didn't want it to overpower the monkfish on account of it being my first taste of monkfish. If you want to make the puree, you want about 1/6 cup for this quantity of monkfish.
3) Cut the monkfish into 2"/5cm-wide chunks.
4) Sprinkle salt over the chunks of monkfish.
5) Roll the monkfish in flour and shake off the excess.
6) Pour enough oil into a pan to come about halfway up the monkfish chunks. Heat oil until it bubbles rapidly for a couple of minutes.
7) Fry the breaded monkfish pieces in batches and until golden, approximately 6 minutes in all, but keep an eye on them should your chunks be irregular. My angelheart and I wanted them less than golden brown - just golden suited us.
8) Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt.
9) Pour the oil out of the skillet, then place it back on the oven over medium heat.
10) Melt the cubes of butter and return the fried monkfish pieces to the skillet.
11) Turn the pieces on all sides in the butter until there is a sizzle.
12) Scrape in the garlic puree, and once it is sizzling, toss amongst the monkfish pieces. As we had more a light sauce than a puree, we just turned the monkfish pieces in it.
13) Add the lemon juice, followed by 3/4 cups water (or vegetable broth), and the wine.
14) Bring the sauce to boil, turning the monkfish pieces in it.
15) As the sauce thickens, add the toasted pine nuts (we used slivered almonds instead).
16) Once the sauce has your preferred consistency, toss in the basil and serve immediately.

Ms. Mattichio Bastianich suggests serving the monkfish with either grilled country bread, polenta, or boiled rice. As you can see, we served ours with noodles that were tossed in sesame oil and finely chopped garlic. The monkfish stands up to the entire process, staying quite meaty. The lemon, basil, and broth complement the fried monkfish pieces really well and do not overpower its mild sweetness.

It must be noted that one should only buy fresh monkfish, for some frozen monkfish imported into the US appears to have been mislabelled and was actually pufferfish, which contains life-threatening tetrodotoxin! Information on the FDA website can be found here. Also, it is the tail of the monkfish that is supposed to have the "properties" of lobster.

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GREAT choice, Shaun. I've been a fan of monkfish for years. I prefer the idea of frying it rather than lobster. I'd worry lobster would get rubbery as many shellfish do.

Glad you're enjoying the fruits of the sea more often, but I'm with you; no allergies, but sometimes a pronounced fishy smell can set me off, too.
I have never eaten monkfish before! Just with regards to the previous post on cookry books, I am currently OBSESSED with Mexican food. I've been going to this Mexican place for the past 2 days now, and am so keen to go again tomorrow. Talk about obsessive! I'll definitely check that Mexican cookbook out!
I love monkfish, this looks really good :) Fishy fish is beyond me as well!
I've never had monkfish but thanks for encouraging me to try it with this post of yours.
Susan, lovie - This is indeed the perfect preparation for this very meaty fish that does not impart a great fishy whiff. Lobster seems to cook best like crab and shrimp - get it in, then out ASAP. Monkfish isn't so cheap around here, though, especially if buying fresh from a reputable fishmonger, but it was worth it and makes for a nice dietary change.

Victoria - Monkfish is worth trying, especially if you want fish with substantial meat. As for Rick Bayless' "Mexican Everyday", I wholeheartedly recommend it. It is a much cherished book in this household with lots of fresh preparation ideas for food.

Kelly-Jane - I recommend this recipe to you, especially if you like monkfish. Because it is lightly fried and there is a little broth, it has great appeal, so your kids might eat it, too.

Cynthia - It is always nice when a fellow foodie can turn you on to something else. I am often inspired by your posts and am glad you've found something here that tempts your tastebuds.





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