What is a Monkfish?
By Richard Stavis
Atlantic Monkfish is a highly prized fish caught in the north Atlantic Ocean. While it’s commonly found in upscale restaurants in Europe it’s often overlooked in America. It’s mild flavor and dense meaty texture have earned this fish the nickname “poor man’s lobster”, but it’s more delicate and versatile in cooking than this name would suggest. Monkfish’s ugliness is legendary. One wonders how this fish was ever brought to the table. Don’t get intimidated. Here’s a how-to that’ll help you bring this tasty fish from the ocean to your table.
This is a whole Monkfish. Monkfish average 7 to 9 pounds. They are wild caught in the Atlantic Ocean from the coast of Nova Scotia down to the Carolinas as well as on the European side.
The head of the Monkfish is disproportionally large. We’ve separated the head from the tail in this picture. There are 2 parts of the Monkfish which are used- the liver (which is primarily for export) and the tail.
This is a picture of the skin-on monkfish tail. This is also the form that we freeze Monkfish for off-season thawed production. Leaving the skin on protects the meat and gives the monkfish tail a shelf life of 12 to 18 months.
This picture shows the a whole Monkfish tail with the skin removed. If you look closely you can see a large cartilage that runs down the center of the tail. The color of the fish’s blood is a good indicator of the freshness of the fish - the brighter the red the more fresh the fish.
The picture above is of a fishmonger cutting the two sides of the monkfish tail into fillets. There is only one bone (which is actually cartilage) that runs down the center of the tail. That bone is discarded, leaving two loins of meat - wider at one end and tapering down to a point.
Here is a finished Monkfish fillet. Each fillet can run from 12 to 20 ounces. The fillet to the left is the inside and the fillet to the right is showing the outside skin side, containing the membrane that would be typically be removed before cooking.
This picture is an example of a finished monkfish dish - scrumptious monk medallions. These monkfish pieces are sautéed in a lemon butter sauce and ready for any fish lovers’ enjoyment!