Pan Roasted Monkfish Recipe

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Pan-Roasted Monkfish
(with porcini crust)
by Charlie Burke

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Monkfish, with its long tail, massive head and large gaping mouth, is among
the ugliest of sea creatures. It was essentially unknown in this country until
Julia Child, familiar with it from her time in France, featured a whole
on one of her more memorable and hilarious shows.

Known as
lotte in France, its sweet meat is prized, although French fish mongers
joke that they never show the head because it would send their customers
running in terror. I can attest to this because once, fishing in our boat a couple
of miles out from Portsmouth with our sons, Kevin and Michael, their friend,
Brian, landed a monkfish. None of us had ever seen this evil-looking monster
with such huge teeth, and the boys quickly cut the line and flipped him over
the side!

Monkfish has several advantages to the cook: it is relatively inexpensive,
boneless and adaptable to varied preparations. Its firm white flesh has a mild
flavor which some feel is similar to lobster, and its density makes cooking time
less critical than those of other filets. Monkfish fillets are half of a tail and can
vary significantly in size, but most are about the size of a pork tenderloin. This
comparison is apt because monkfish is cooked more like meat than fish.

This preparation uses ground dried porcini mushrooms as a coating; I find the
dense, earthy flavor of the mushrooms complements the meaty texture of the
fillet, but I’ve also used fresh rosemary and garlic or crushed black pepper,
fennel seeds and coriander seeds. Simple sea salt and ground pepper are fine,
as well.

This technique, searing over high heat on the stove top and finishing in the
oven, is frequently used in restaurants. The searing caramelizes the crust, and
the cooking then continues relatively untended in the oven, permitting final
preparation of the rest of the meal. We will have similar recipes using chicken
and meat in the future because rich flavors develop while moist tenderness is

For four:

2 pound monkfish fillet or 2 smaller totaling 2 -2 1/2 pounds (Ask fishmonger
to remove covering membrane)
¼ cup dried porcini mushrooms – or 1 small package as sold in markets
(double if using 2 fillets)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Grind mushrooms to a powder in a spice mill,
coffee grinder or blender. Salt and pepper all surfaces of the fillet, then roll fillet
in mushroom powder, covering evenly.

Heat an oven-proof heavy sauté of frying pan over medium high heat (a cast
iron pan works well). Film bottom of pan with olive oil and add fillet when oil
is shimmering. Sauté until well browned on all sides; if cooking two fillets keep
them apart to promote browning. Place pan into oven and cook for
approximately 20 minutes per inch at thickest part of fillet or until temperature
is 155 degrees. Note that monkfish requires longer cooking than most other fish
because of its density, so check temperature since cooking times will vary
depending on the oven and the size of the fish.

Remove pan from oven (The handle will stay very hot; it is a good idea to place
an oven mitt over the handle. I have grabbed hold of a few!)

Let fish stand for five minutes or so to permit the temperature to reach 160
degrees, which is important for tenderness. Drizzle with a small amount of
your best extra virgin olive oil and serve with roasted potatoes or a
pancake (see recipe archive), along with a green vegetable such as sautéed
spinach. This is one fish dish which should be served with a red wine, such a
Spanish Rioja, or a California Cabernet.

About the author
An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice president of
the New Hampshire Farmer’s Market Association ( and helps
run the Sanbornton Farmers' Market. Along with his wife, Joanne, he grows
certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather Hill Farm in Sanbornton,
Monkfish: An Ugly Fish Makes a Beautiful Meal
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