‘Tis the Season for Whole-Roasted Monkfish
December 16, 2013
I know it's the time of year for roast beast. But you know me: I'd rather roast a fish.
Right now, we've got a bone-in loin of monkfish on the menu at Mac's Provincetown that I'm planning to make the centerpiece of our family's Christmas feast.
I figure it's as meaty and elegant as any roast could be. And if you add a little crème fraîche to the pan juices, you end up with a killer gravy for spooning over mashed potatoes––guaranteed to satisfy the folks who are fixated on tradition.
One more reason to try this at home: the monkfish comes to us from local Cape Cod fishermen. Yes, they are out there in this cold. And they're bringing in some beautiful fish. What could be more right for this season of celebration?
We nearly always display fillets in our markets, but ask for monkfish on the bone for this recipe. If we haven't already cut all our fillets for the day we'll have it for you on the spot. Give us a day's notice and we can be sure to set aside some nice thick bone-in pieces for you.
(If you still can't imagine the holidays without a more traditional roast, you might need to visit the meat counter at our market in Provincetown. The rib eye is excellent––none of those unnecessary antibiotics or growth hormones here. We regularly offer it filleted, but if you want it on the bone for a standing rib roast, give us a call: we can reel in a special order for you.)
Remember to allow for weightier portions than usual for this dish, since you're roasting the fish on the bone. At the restaurant, we serve our roasted monkfish over a bed of mashed potatoes, livened up with a few leaves of wilted fresh spinach––they're great sides with this pan gravy.
3 lbs. monkfish, cut crosswise into four bone-in portions
1 1/2 cups good, dry white wine
one cup crème fraîche (heavy cream will work, its just not as complex and tangy)
a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, sliced (even better: a spoonful of roasted garlic, if you have that on hand)
one shallot, peeled and sliced thin
2 tablespoons minced herbs (I like to combine fresh sage and thyme)
about a cup of flour for lightly dredging the fish
grapeseed oil for searing
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oven to 450 F.
Trim the fish: the membrane that surrounds monkfish can be a little slippery to deal with, but use a sharp knife and slice it off as best you can. Then cut the fish crosswise into evenly proportioned bone-in "roasts." It's OK if they don't look perfect: the sear and the sauce will put them right.
Put the flour on a plate. When you're ready to cook, season the fish pieces well with plenty of salt and pepper, then dredge them to coat lightly with flour.
Heat an oven-proof skillet. Coat the bottom of it with a generous drizzle of oil and get it nice and hot. I recommend grapeseed oil because it has a clean, neutral flavor and a high smoke point, meaning it can handle the hot oven roasting you're about to do. My brother Alex uses duck fat in situations like this––to each his own.
Sear the fish on all sides. Don't try to turn the pieces too soon: give them a few minutes and let them take on a nice golden-brown color.
Move the pan to the hot oven and roast the fish to finish it. Thick, bone-in slabs like this need a good 15 minutes to cook through. Then take the pan out of the oven and remove the fish to a warm plate. Float a piece of foil on top to help keep them warm.
Put the pan back on the stove (watch that oven-hot handle!) and add tiny bit more fat to the pan––just enough to allow you to sauté the sliced shallots for a minute (and the garlic if you are not using roasted garlic). Stir in the herbs and the roasted garlic.
Deglaze the pan with the white wine; stir and simmer until the wine reduces by about half and picks up all the pan juices. Finally, stir in the crème fraîche and simmer the sauce a bit more 'til it's bubbling hot and slightly thickened.
Taste the sauce and ramp up the salt and pepper if need be. Finish it with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Plate the fish and sauce it. I like to use deep plates that will hold generous spoonfuls of sauce.
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