Recipe from Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010)Makes 4 servings
With its translucent white meat and firm texture, monkfish has sometimes been called "poor man's lobster." (Because of its diet of shellfish, it even tastes faintly like lobster.) An ugly fish, it was almost never found on restaurant menus in America and only rarely in France, where chefs, like home cooks, might prepare it for their families, but not their guests. Now, a decade or so later, monkfish, or lotte, is so popular that it costs more than lobster!
Like lobster, lotte takes to gentle cooking and works well with vegetables and herbs. Here medallions of monkfish, cut from the tail, are quickly sautéed and served with a light carrot sauce, an accompaniment that's really good with other kinds of fish and shellfish, including shrimp, scallops, and even flounder fillets (see Bonne Idée).While chefs vie for monkfish cheeks and liver, it's the tail that's the meatiest and most prized part of the fish. It should not be cooked until it has been skinned, and trust me, you don't want to be the one doing the skinning - ask your fishmonger to take on the task.
For the carrots
- 1 cup carrot juice (store-bought is fine)
- 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- 1 pound carrots, trimmed, peeled, and cut into ½-inch-thick coins
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the monkfish
- 4 strips bacon
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 4 monkfish medallions, 5-6 ounces each
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
To make the carrots: Put the carrot juice, 1 tablespoon of the butter, the olive oil, and rosemary in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the carrots, season with salt and pepper, cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook at a simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove the lid and, still over low heat, continue to cook the carrots until they're tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Take the pan off the burner. (The carrots can be made to this point up to 3 hours ahead, covered, and refrigerated.)
Meanwhile, make the monkfish: Place the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat and cook until the bacon is browned on one side. Carefully turn the strips over and cook until browned on the second side. Lift the bacon onto a plate lined with a double layer of paper towels, and blot away as much fat as you can (set the skillet aside). Cut the bacon into thin strips or crumble it.
Pour off all but about 2 teaspoons of the fat from the skillet. Add the butter and put the skillet over medium-high heat. When the bubbles from the melted butter have subsided, slip in the pieces of monkfish. Cook for 4 minutes, then flip the pieces over, season with salt and pepper, and cook for another 4 minutes or so - you want the fish to be brown on the outside and opaque in the center. Remove the fish from the skillet and keep it lightly covered in a warm place while you finish the carrots (a matter of minutes).
To finish the carrots: Cut the remaining tablespoon of cold butter into 3 pieces. Bring the carrots back to a boil, then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the carrots to a bowl. Remove the saucepan from the heat and, one by one, swirl in the pieces of butter. Taste for salt and pepper and remove the rosemary sprigs.
Divide the carrots among four warm dinner plates. Spoon over some of the sauce, top the carrots with the monkfish, drizzle with the remaining sauce, and finish with the bacon bits.
Serving: If you want to make this special dish even more special, start with a spoonful of Celery Root Puree (page 354) or mashed potatoes (page 357) on each plate, then add the carrots, monkfish, sauce, and bacon.
Storing: You can make the carrots a few hours ahead of time and then, right before serving, reheat them and finish the sauce with the last tablespoon of butter.
Bonne idée: Scallops, Shrimp, or Flounder with Double Carrots. You can replace the monkfish medallions with sea scallops - figure 4 scallops per person and cook them for just2 minutes on a side; with jumbo shrimp - figure about 5 per person - cook for about 2 minutes on a side; or 4 flounder fillets, 4 to 5 ounces each. For flounder, pat the fillets dry, dredge them in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, and sauté them until they are golden on both sides and just cooked through, about 3 minutes on a side.