Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Swoon. I don’t use that word lightly. But this dish made me swoon.

Years ago I saw Jasper White make Lobster à l’Américaine on Julia Child’s Cooking with the Master Chefs show. I’ve never forgotten the sight of that dish, I could almost smell it, yet I never made it. It popped into my head last weekend when I read in Locals Seafood’s weekly email that they had monkfish at the farmers market.

Monkfish | Grabbing the Gusto

(Photo by Alexander Mayrhofer/Wikimedia Commons)

Monkfish is called “poor man’s lobster” because of its sweet, firm white meat. It’s a hideous looking fish but its huge tail provides lots of succulent fillets. I went to the farmers market and bought four fillets, about one and a half pounds. Then I hunted for a Monkfish à l’Américaine recipe because I knew my time to make it had finally come.

I found the recipe I was looking for on Sam Hoffer’s My Carolina Kitchen blog. Even better, it was a recipe from Jacques Pepin’s Essential Pepin cookbook. I was in the hands of a master. I only made a few changes based on what I had on hand already. I used a few shallots instead of a leek, ground fennel instead of fennel seeds, and brandy instead of Armagnac or cognac.

I served it with sautéed Johnston County kale from the farmers market and some quick Creole yellow rice from a box – it was the perfect match so I’m glad I was lazy and did that instead of making regular rice. This is a celebration meal – so good. And the leftovers were fantastic too.

If you can’t find monkfish, this sauce would be great with cod, halibut, mahi, snapper or any other meaty white fish. And, of course, lobster.

Monkfish à l'Américaine |Grabbing the Gusto

Monkfish à l’Américaine |Grabbing the Gusto

Monkfish à l’Américaine

You’ll need a large pan with lid.

  • 1-1/2 to 2 pounds monkfish fillets 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, cut into 1/2” pieces – about 1 cup
  • 1 leek, trimmed leaving some green, cut into 1/2” pieces, about 1 cup
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2” pieces, about 1/2 cup
  • 1 celery stalk, cut into 1/2” pieces, about 1/3 cup
  • 1-1/4 cups chopped tomato – I used one 14 oz. can of petite diced tomato
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1/2 cup white wine or dry vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

Cut monkfish into twelve pieces. Heat the oil in a large pan until hot but not smoking. Add the onion, leek, carrot and celery and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add tomato, tomato paste, garlic, herbs de Provence, salt, cayenne, fennel, wine, brandy and water. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Add fish to the pan. Cover and simmer gently over low heat for 15 minutes. Remove the fish from the pan and set aside on a plate. Take the pan off the heat and stir in butter. Then, either use an immersion blender to emulsify the vegetables into a fine puree or leave the sauce chunky — that’s what I did. Add the fish back into the sauce and sprinkle with the tarragon. Serve with rice.

Original recipe: Monkfish à l’Américaine, My Carolina Kitchen


3 years ago on Grabbing the Gusto: Eggplant and Zucchini Lasagna

6 thoughts on “Monkfish à l’Américaine

  1. Ew–does not look appetizing–the fish itself, that is. Will have to try monkfish. Thanks for your ongoing cooking inspiration!

    1. deirdrereid says:

      Monkfish is hideous-looking but it is one of my favorite fish. Maybe my number one, although I hate to play favorites. Look for “lotte” on the menu in a French restaurant, that’s monkfish — the French know how to do fish well, that’s for sure.

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