Last Updated on Friday, 23 March 2012 13:22
Our annual survey of seafood in Southeast Louisiana this year counts down the 33 best seafood species enjoyed in our restaurants, seafood markets, and homes. For the full survey so far, click here. Or use the links at the bottom to move up and down the list.
Monkfish has a helpful nickname: "lobster fish." That tell you almost everything you need to know about it--that its flesh has the texture, firmness, and brilliant white color of lobster tail meat. Its structure even has that twisted appearance that lobster meat does. The difference is in the flavor, as fine as its appearance. A little too assertive to be called mild, but not so string that it would put anyone off. This must have come as a surprise to the first man who ever caught a monkfish, because this is one ugly sea denizen. Its head is enormous in comparison with the rest of its body. It looks like something out of a monster movie. The big, wide mouth is full of sharp teeth, ready to trap any fish that wanders within range as the monkfish sits on the sea bottom. It's a cold-water species from the North Atlantic Ocean.
The liver of the monkfish is a thing apart. It shows up in the better sushi bars, where it's referred to by aficionados (of which I am one) as "Japanese foie gras." It's seriously delicious.
Part of this survey's ranking methodology includes availability. Monkfish is only rarely found in New Orleans restaurants. It would rank higher if we could get it more often. I do, every time I encounter it.
Pan-Grilled Monkfish With Mardi Gras Vegetables
Here's a basic recipe for grilling thick fish, applied to thick fillets of monkfish--a very firm, white fish with a texture that reminds many eaters of lobster. It doesn't taste like lobster, but it is a very fine fish. While the instructions below are for grilling, this is also a very good fish for broiling. The garnish is a pile of colorful shredded vegetables, cooked just long enough to take out the stiffness.
This dish also works well with other species that lend themselves to the grill. Tuna, swordfish, redfish, mahi-mahi, escolar and lemonfish come to mind.
- 4 monkfish fillets, 6-8 oz. each
- 2 cups total of at least three of the following vegetables, coarsely shredded: --Purple cabbage --Green cabbage --Carrots --White onion --Yellow squash --Broccoli stems
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- Creole seasoning
1. Heat a black iron skillet or griddle quite hot--but not as much as for blackening fish. Brush the fish with butter and sprinkle on Creole seasoning to your taste. Grill the fish for about two minutes on each side--until the fish is opaque all the way through. Remove and keep warm.
2. Pile the shredded vegetables onto the hot skillet or griddle, and spoon 1 tsp. of butter over them. Turn the pile after one minute, and cook for one more minute.
3. Place the fish on a serving plate, and put the vegetables on top of it.
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