Poor Man’s Lobster – Monkfish with Herb Brown Butter
With sweet, meaty lobster-like flesh, monkfish is affectionately known as “poor man’s lobster”. But there’s certainly nothing “poor” about this dish! If you’re new to cooking Monkfish, this is a good recipe to try because it’s easy and really showcases how good monkfish is, and why it’s a firm favourite with fine dining restaurants. Monkfish... Get the Recipe The post Poor Man’s Lobster – Monkfish with Herb Brown Butter appeared first on RecipeTin Eats.
With sweet, meaty lobster-like flesh, monkfish is affectionately known as “poor man’s lobster”. But there’s certainly nothing “poor” about this dish! If you’re new to cooking Monkfish, this is a good recipe to try because it’s easy and really showcases how good monkfish is, and why it’s a firm favourite with fine dining restaurants.
Monkfish is affectionately known as “poor man’s lobster” because the meaty, sweet flesh is considered to be similar to lobster but is far more economical. The cooked flesh of monkfish has a similar succulent texture, sweet clean flavour (ie not fishy at all) and monkfish fillets are thick and meaty like lobster tails.
Thus in the spirit of this, the preparation of the monkfish in this recipe is based on a way I like to prepare lobster tails – pan seared with a Herb Brown Butter Sauce. It’s a classic sauce that works for all seafoods, with brown butter having a more intense nutty flavour than just plain melted butter that makes this just that little bit more interesting.
It’s quick and easy enough for a midweek meal, being 15 minutes (tops) from start to finish. But I’m also going to share a nice way of plating this up that I think makes this Monkfish recipe worthy of a place at a fine dining restaurant!
Monkfish recipe ingredients
Here’s what you need to make this Monkfish recipe. While I’ve made this using Monkfish, it can be made with any fish suitable for pan searing. Also, see here for the Salmon version of this recipe.
Widely available at fishmongers in Sydney, but perhaps you’ve bypassed it because it’s not a fish familiar to you. Well, no more! Aside from the appeal of the lobster-like characteristics of the flesh, it’s a particularly clean tasting fish so it’s good for people who are sensitive to / not a fan of “fishy” tasting fish.
It’s also a fish that is good for company because it can be plated up beautifully which restaurants around the world do so well. This is because the shape of these fish fillets is almost like pork tenderloin, more tubular rather than flat like traditional fish fillets, so they can sliced and artfully placed onto plates. My attempt at plating up nicely is shown at the bottom of the post!
The monkfish fillets I have that are pictured above and below are actually not that big, around 200g/7oz for a whole fillet. Actually, there’s 1 1/2 fillets to total 300g/10oz for 2 people (150 – 180g / 5 – 6oz fish per serving is standard).
It’s best to cut them into large(ish) pieces for pan searing as it will help them cook through more evenly, as well as being easier to handle (eg. turning). The photo below shows how I cut them.
How to cut monkfish fillets for pan searing
Other ingredients required
Olive oil – This is used to pan fry the fish. Oil rather than butter because butter burns when pan frying (unless you use copious amounts or very low heat, neither of which suit this recipe);
Butter – The sauce for this fish recipe is a brown butter sauce which is made simply by leaving melted butter in the pan long enough so the flavour becomes nutty. You’d expect it to be brown, given the name, and it will look brown in the pan. But actually, it just becomes a more intense yellow colour. Gold, actually! Suitable, given that brown butter is also referred to as liquid gold – because it’s that good.
In this particular recipe, we’re also using the butter to spoon over the fish as it cooks. Simple little chef technique that lifts this otherwise simple recipe up a notch to restaurant level. If you’re never done it before, don’t worry, it’s easy. And you’ll feel like a total pro doing it!
Garlic & thyme – These are used to flavour the butter that is spooned over the fish as it cooks. We keep them whole and pick them out at the end so we get the flavour in the butter without ending up with burnt bits int he sauce;
Fresh herbs – It’s not essential but lovely for visual and a pinch of freshness. I’ve used an elegant combination of parsley, chervil and chives – but only because I’m lucky enough to have these thriving in my herb garden at the moment and this is a lovely, elegant combination.
However, you could use just one of these herbs, or even skip it. In fact, brown butter without herbs is a classic sauce to serve with fish called “beurre noisette” in French – here’s my recipe (excellent staple sauce for fish).
How to cook Monkfish
Basting with garlic-thyme infused butter as the monkfish cooks in the pan is the little restaurant trick that makes this otherwise very simple dish into something a little special! Just think of all the good things that happen as the butter seeps into the cracks and crevices of the monkfish…..
Cut and season – Cut the Monkfish fillets into (roughly) equal size fillets so they cook in the same time. The number of pieces will depend on the size of the fillets you get and how they are cut. See photo above for how I cut the fillets I had.
Sprinkle the monkfish fillets with salt and pepper on both sides. You won’t need oil, it will stick to the flesh;
Pan sear – Heat oil in a large non stick pan over medium high heat (or medium heat if your stove is strong). Place thick pieces of fish that will take longer to cook into the pan first. Leave for 1 minute then add the thinner (tail) pieces. Cook for a further 2 minutes, then turn fish;
Melt butter – As soon as you turn the fish, add butter. Then when it starts melting, add garlic and thyme;
Baste, baste, baste! When the butter has fully melted and starts foaming, tilt the pan and start spooning the butter over the fish. What we are doing here is basting the monkfish with butter which imparts flavour onto the surface of the fish, gives it extra rich flavour as well as speeding up the cook time because the hot butter cooks the surface of the fish.
This pan searing + basting cooking method is a very cheffy / restaurant technique that’s simple to replicate at home for better (tastier!) results.
Baste the monkfish for 2 minutes or or until the internal temperature is 55°C/131°F which is medium, optimum juiciness for baked fish without any rare or raw flesh at all. The butter will begin to smell nutty – it’s now brown butter!
If you don’t have a meat thermometer, check to see the flesh flakes easily at the thickest point, which indicates the fish is done;
Rest – Transfer fish onto the rack and rest for 3 minutes.
Herbs – Add herbs into butter, then serve the Herb Brown Butter with monkfish. See below for plating up suggestion.
This recipe only makes just over 1 tablespoon of Herb Brown Butter per serving. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s all you need. Brown butter is rich, being that it’s 100% butter but also because brown butter has a richer more intense flavour than plain melted butter.
Monkfish plating up suggestion – fine dining style!
A unique thing about monkfish is that the fillets are so thick that they can be sliced. You see restaurants taking full advantage of this to plate up monkfish in all sorts of creative, beautiful ways.
Above is my effort to plate up Monkfish, fine dining style! The combination of a dark coloured plate, vibrant green pea puree and white Monkfish looks beautiful (I think). Here’s how to replicate this:
After resting, slice monkfish into 2.5cm / 1″ pieces. Hold the fish carefully with your fingers and use a sharp knife so you can cut neat slices;
Smear a big dollop of pea puree on a plate;
Place monkfish pieces on pea puree (arrange as pictured, or come up with your own design!); and
Drizzle with Herb Brown Butter from the pan. Optional garnish with any combination of dill, parsley, chervil.
Other side suggestions for Monkfish
Choose a side salad using your favourite vegetables (leafy green salads go especially well, I think);
Mini Potato Dauphinoise stacks, a Crispy Potato Rosti or virtually any potato side; or
for something different, try this (simple! baked!) Lemon Herb Risotto or any rice side or rice salad (non Asian, I’d suggest).
So many possibilities! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Poor Man’s Lobster – Monkfish with Herb Browned Butter
- 300g/ 10oz monkfish fillets , skinless and boneless (Note 1)
- 1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper , finely ground
- 2 tbsp/ 30g unsalted butter , cut into 1cm / 1/2″ cubes
- 2 garlic cloves , smashed (Note 2)
- 2 sprigs thyme
Fresh herbs (Note 3):
- 1/2 tsp parsley , finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp chives , finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp chervil , finely chopped
- Cut fillets: Cut each monkfish into 3 or 4 even size pieces. (Note 1)
- Season: Sprinkle both sides of fish with salt and pepper.
- Rack for resting: Place a rack over a tray (optional, for resting fish, Note 5)
Cooking monkfish (Note 2):
- Heat oil: Heat oil in non stick pan over medium heat (medium high for weak stoves).
- Sear first side, then turn: Place thick pieces of fish in the pan first. Leave for 1 minute then add the thinner pieces. (Note 4). Cook for a further 2 minutes, then turn fish.
- Add butter & baste: Add butter, then when it starts melting, add garlic and thyme. When the butter starts foaming, tilt the pan and start spooning the butter over the fish. Do this for 2 minutes or until the internal temperature is 55°C/131°F (Note 6), or the flesh flakes easily. Butter will begin to smell nutty – it's now brown butter!
- Rest: Transfer fish onto the rack and rest for 3 minutes.
- Add herbs: Add herbs into butter, then serve the Herb Brown Butter with monkfish.
Optional plating up, fine dining style!
- Slice monkfish into 2.5cm / 1" pieces. Place on pea puree, then drizzle with Herb Brown Butter. Optional garnish with any combination of dill, parsley, chervil.
Life of Dozer
Demolition done, walls are out! The house renovation is well and truly underway – and Dozer is thoroughly confused. This used to be home…..? What happened to his favourite room, the pantry?? (It used to be pretty much where he is standing!)
For those playing catch up, I’m renovating my house to build my dream kitchen. It turns out, this whole renovation thing is a little more involved than I expected it to be. I thought I could live downstairs in the spare room, using the work kitchen. It turns out, it’s not really viable. Something about needing running water and electricity, and not living with jackhammering from 8am every morning. So I’ve moved out temporarily, renting a nearby house! Photos soon!
The post Poor Man’s Lobster – Monkfish with Herb Brown Butter appeared first on RecipeTin Eats.