Monkfish is possibly one of the ugliest fish out there. If you saw a whole monkfish on the fish counter, you might think twice about buying it – there’s a reason they’re also known as Sea Devils. However, if you overcome it’s appearance, monkfish is a great fish to eat – it’s meaty, and quite low on bones. Generally you buy it with the head chopped off: the rest of the meat is called the tail. The meat contains a lot of water that tends to come out whilst you’re cooking – the best way to combat this is to pan roast it at high temperature, so that the water evaporates off. Alternatively, you can season it with salt a little while before cooking, which will help draw out some of the moisture.
Michael had a couple of monkfish recipes in his cookbook – for the recipe below, he used quite a lot of herbs and spices when cooking it, which works beautifully because the meaty fish stands up really well with the strong flavours. Monkfish and mussels often come together, and they make a dish that is pretty much a seafood lover’s heaven.
Michael Caines’ Pan-Fried Monkfish with mussels, and a grain mustard and tarragon sauce
1 tbsp curry powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
600g monkfish tail, cut into 12 medallions
60g unsalted butter
Juice of 1 lemon
40g shallots, chopped
1 bay leaf
A sprig of fresh thyme
A sprig of fresh tarragon
50ml white wine
400g mussels, washed and cleaned
A pinch of saffron
25ml double or whipping cream
500ml fish stock
1 tsp grain mustard
Chopped fresh tarragon
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius.
Mix the curry powder and 1 teaspoon of salt together. Season the fish with the curry salt and a good twist of black pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a non-stick ovenproof frying pan, then add the fish and 20g of the butter. Cook over a medium heat until the fish is golden brown, then turn it over and put the pan into the oven for approximately 3 minutes. Remove, squeeze over the lemon juice and set aside to rest.
Melt 20g of butter in a large saucepan, add the shallots, and cook gently until they are soft and transparent. Add the bay leaf, thyme and tarragon. Add the white wine and bring to the boil, then add the cleaned mussels and cover with a lid. Once the mussels have opened, pour them into a colander, over a bowl and leave to drain. (Discard any mussels that haven’t opened). Pour the cooking liquid back into the saucepan, add a pinch of saffron strands, the cream and the fish stock. Bring back to the boil, then whisk in the remaining butter and simmer until reduced to a creamy consistency. Add a teaspoon of grain mustard, season with salt and pepper, and finish with chopped tarragon.
Briefly reheat the monkfish in the oven for a few minutes, then remove and transfer to your serving plate (3 per serving). Pour the cooked mussel over the top (in or out of the shell, as you wish) and spoon over the sauce.