Saturday, August 01, 2009


Roast Tail of Monkfish with Orange Sauce

The Auckland Fish Market is so close by that it would be wasteful not to take advantage of the freshest catch. My angelheart Eric has always been an avid lover of most seafood; I, on the other hand, require a bit of persuasion. I have been making a conscious effort to eat more fish, though, particularly the innocuous types, like terakihi and cod. Of all fish, monkfish is the most superior. It is often thought of as poor man's lobster - it is succulent and meaty. While not as sweet as lobster, it does have a high water content, lending to a perfect sauce at the end of roasting your monkfish tail, as my angelheart Eric and I sometimes make.

On account of its abundant meat and water content, monkfish does not really suffer from overcooking. In the worst case scenario, the texture might become raggedy, but one can live with that if that is the worst that could happen to it. If you want to prepare the monkfish tail into fillets for cooking, salt the fillets prior to pan frying so that the water can be drawn out; otherwise, your fillets may end up soggy.

The monkfish tail is a large piece of meat, lending to its nickname in Scotland as "gigot," as in a leg of lamb. Think of preparing it as you would lamb - it can be roasted, braised, breaded and fried. It also partners well with lamb's friends - herbs, orange, anchovies...

Roast Tail of Monkfish with Orange Sauce
(adapted from Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson's Gigot of Monkfish Romarin with Anchovies from Two Fat Ladies: Gastronomic Adventures)

For the Monkfish:

750 g/1.5 lb monkfish tail, butterflied and deboned
large handful of tarragon
1 orange
8 anchovy fillets
8 cloves garlic
olive oil

1) Lay the butterflied monkfish in a baking dish.
2) Fill the inside of the monkfish with tarragon and slices from half of the orange, and season with salt and pepper.
3) Close up the monkfish by tying it up in three spots - either end and the middle.
4) Cut 8 slits into the monkfish tail with a sharp knife.
5) Insert one anchovy fillet and one garlic clove per slit.
6) Rub the monkfish with a bit of olive oil and the juice from the other half of the orange, and season with salt and pepper.
7) Place in the refrigerator to marinade - up to 2 hours.
8) Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F.
9) Bring monkfish out of the fridge for 20-30 minutes prior to roasting.
10) Roast monkfish for 35-45 minutes until cooked through.

For the Sauce:

30g/1 oz unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1/4 cup dry vermouth
liquor from the monkfish
rind and juice from half an orange
tarragon leaves, gently torn

1) When the monkfish is almost cooked through, melt butter with olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan.
2) Add onion and a pinch of salt.
3) When the onions are transluscent, add vermouth.
4) When the vermouth has evaporated, turn the heat up to medium high. Add the liquor from the monkfish (this will require that you pour the liquid from the baking dish - and then you can throw the monkfish into the oven, to finish cooking or to keep warm) and the orange juice.
5) Strew in the tarragon leaves.
6) Taste for seasoning.
7) Remove onions with slotted spoon and place on the monkfish, then pour sauce over the monkfish and serve.

Like a lot of large fish, monkfish stands up to heavy and punchy flavours as well as highly acidic or lowly nutty ones. Try it with romesco sauce or tomato vinaigrette, as Clarissa Dickson Wright does. It also goes well with thick mayonnaise.

This is wonderfully hearty without being too filling, an easy weeknight dish for two.

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This looks delicious.

I really like fish but for some reason, don't cook enough of it. Am thinking of making the 2010 blog theme fish dishes...

Jasmine, honey ~ My angelheart Eric and I have been making a bigger effort to eat fish. I am really a recent convert, after passing a good 15 years or so without eating any. Monkfish is a dream to eat. We're trying to cook whole fish more often, too, particularly by roasting or steaming it. A great option for light eating and nowhere near as intimidating as I had thought. I look forward to seeing what you do in 2010!
I love fish, especially monkfish. I think the meat has such a sweet flavor. I also love the idea of pairing it with tarragon; I have some tarragon pistachio butter in the fridge; I think I may pair it with monkfish. Thanks for the inspiration!
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