Monkfish, or lotte, often referred to as poor man’s lobster, actually bears little resemblance to lobster but, when carefully prepared, is wonderfully delicious in its own right.
Primarily, only the tail of the monkfish is used and it is the texture of this meat that demands special attention from the cook. While the cleaned and prepared flesh resembles lobster, the texture is not as firm as lobster, but much more firm than most fin fish.
Monkfish flesh is enclosed in a tight-fitting gray membrane that is fairly easily removed with a sharp knife. Fishmongers usually sell monkfish in fillets, with the grey membrane already removed.
If you simply sauté the fillets, they tend to curl up in the pan and exude all their juices; if you use the smallest portion of the tail (where the bone is smallest), you will have the most tender and delicate portion of the monkfish that will easily become the highlight of any quick and very special dinner party.
Roasted Monkfish tail with bacon, potatoes, and fresh thyme
For 4 servings
1/3 pound thick sliced bacon, cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
4 tiny new potatoes (red creamers), scrubbed and sliced ¼-inch thick
4 shallots, sliced thin
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, plus springs for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ pounds fillet of monkfish tail, membranes removed, and the fish cut into 4 thick serving pieces
2 Tbsp dry white wine
4 tsps butter, room temperature
* Preheat oven to 450-degrees
* Cook bacon in a 10-inch heavy, oven-proof skillet over moderately high heat, stirring, until bacon begins to crisp. Remove bacon with slotted spoon, drain on pepper towels, and reserve.
* While bacon is cooking, boil potatoes in salted water for 4 minutes, and drain completely.
* Cook shallots in bacon drippings, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in potatoes, 1 tsp thyme leaves, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring for 1 additional minute.
* Push potato mixture to one side and add monkfish to the center of the skillet.
* Drizzle white wine over the monkfish.
* Roast monkfish in oven for 10 minutes, and then place under a hot broiler until mixture is just cooked through and very browned on the outside.
* When ready to serve, remove monkfish from skillet, place on a dish, and cover with aluminum foil.
* Place skillet over moderately high heat, and add reserved bacon pieces and remaining 1 teaspoon of thyme leaves to the potatoes and shallots. Toss over heat until bacon is heated through.
* Place each monkfish fillet on a dinner plate, reserving juice that has collected around the monkfish. Top each fillet with one teaspoon of butter, and surround with potato slices, leaving behind as much of the shallots and bacon in the pan as possible.
* Adjust seasonings. Top the monkfish with remaining shallots and bacon, and drizzle the collected juices over all. Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme, and serve immediately.
Finish the meal with a light green salad of baby lettuces, watercress, and a mild vinaigrette. Fresh fruit is the perfect dessert.