Monkfish with Tomato Olive Sauce

Not the kind of fish you want to meet when swimming in the sea, but definitely one you want to meet when shopping at the fishmonger. Make sure you bring some money because monkfish tends to be expensive. Great meat, delicate yet distinctive taste and not difficult to prepare as long as you’re not in a hurry.
The sauce has to be made a day in advance. It needs time to cook and time to integrate.
You will need to remove the skin of the monkfish. There seem to be several layers of skin and one is (when cooked) really rubbery and inedible. So take you knife, start at the tail end and move forwards, thus removing the membrane. You will find useful videos on the Internet. Unfortunately these videos suggest removing the main bone of the fish, which is a mistake for three reasons. You lose taste and meat plus you lose a natural indicator of the cuisson of the fish.
Pitted black olives. Sounds simple but isn’t simple at all. Buy quality, for instance Niçoise or Kalamate and stay away from cheap and canned. Dry-cured black olives (the wrinkly ones like Nyon) can be overpowering.
Monkfish is an essential ingredient of Zarzuela because of its texture and taste. In this recipe we combine the obvious: monkfish and tomato. We add a bouquet garni consisting of rosemary, thyme and bay leaf. The black olives give the required twist to the sauce and the dish as a whole.

We suggest a glass of Chardonnay to accompany the monkfish, provided the wine is not too woody; a light touch of oak will be best. Soave could also be a good combination.

Here is what you need

  • one Shallot
  • one Garlic Glove
  • Olive Oil
  • two Tomatoes
  • Pitted Black Olives
  • Bay Leaf
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Monkfish (200 gram per person, bone included)
  • Black Pepper

Start by making the sauce. Gently fry the chopped shallot in a splash of olive oil. After a few minutes add the chopped garlic. Now add the chopped tomatoes and the pitted black olives (depending on their taste we suggest between 10 and 15). Add the bouquet garni and allow to cook on low heat for a number of hours. Make sure to check on a regular basis. When ready, remove the bouquet garni and transfer to a blender. Pass the mixture through a sieve. The sauce should be as smooth as possible. Transfer to the refrigerator and use the next day.
Use a heavy iron skillet to fry the monkfish in olive oil. When nicely coloured, reduce the heat and start adding the sauce. Since the sauce is cold, you need to do it spoon by spoon. Coat the fish with warm sauce, again, and again. Use your knife to try separating the meat from the bone. When this is possible without applying too much pressure, the fish is nearly perfect. Remove the bone, turn the fish on the side that was connected to the bone and cook for one or two minutes. Taste the sauce; maybe you want to add some fresh black pepper.
Serve on a warm plate with some crusted bread.

Last Week’s Special-20

Rape a la Marinera or Monkfish Spanish Style with Verdejo (Monteabellon Rueda 2016)

In October 2016 Jamie Oliver was criticised for making paella the wrong way. He dared adding chorizo to one of the most Spanish dishes ever. Paella should be rabbit, snails, chicken, beans, saffron and rice. How dare he insult all of Spain by adding chorizo to such a traditional recipe! Naked chef or not, ambassador of healthy food or not, no one touches Paella.

Which triggers the intriguing question what is actually traditional and original. Isn’t traditional sashimi salmon, tuna and sea bream? Isn’t it?
In the 1970s, Japan did not import a single piece of fish. Salmon would first be marinated in sake and then salted or dried before being grilled. In these days in Japan salmon was always wild salmon and not eaten raw because of the possibility of parasites in raw wild salmon. So salmon was not used for sushi and sashimi. That all started to change in the 1980s after a Norwegian seafood delegation visited the country and Project Japan started. In 1980 the first salmon was imported and it took until 1995 for the public to accept raw salmon for sushi and sashimi. Today salmon is the sushi fish of choice among young Japanese.

Going back to Paella: how often did you have snails in your paella?

Rape a la Marinera is among our favourites because it’s all about monkfish, which is such a tasty fish. It can be compared with lobster (but we admit, you need a bit of imagination). The monkfish is presented with a generous tomato sauce, gamba, vongole’s and bread. What better way to enjoy life!

We very much enjoyed a glass of Spanish Verdejo. In our case a bottle of Monteabellon Rueda 2016. In general wines made from the Verdejo grape combine very well with fish. The wine comes with the right acidity, giving freshness to the wine. It has floral aromas typical for the Verdejo grape. You may recognize the aromas of banana and exotic fruit.

In this recipe we will probably do a few things very wrong, but never mind, simply don’t tell you Spanish friends.

The day before serving Rape a la Marinera we make the tomato sauce.

Here is what you need:

  • 4 Excellent Ripe Tomatoes
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • ½ Chilli
  • 1 Onion
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • ½ Glass Red Wine
  • 1 Anchovy Fillet
  • Few Black Olives
  • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Thyme, Rosemary, Bay Leaf)

Prepare the tomatoes by peeling them, removing all the pits and slicing the remaining meat. What’s left over goes into a sieve and with a spoon you squeeze out the juices. You will be amazed how much juice you will get (and how little is left from the tomatoes). Peel the onion and cut in smaller bits. Add olive oil to the pan and glaze the onion for 10 minutes or so. Add the chopped garlic clove. Stir a bit and then add the sliced bell pepper and the sliced chilli. Let cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes or so. Add the halved olives, the sliced anchovy fillet and the sliced tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes, add the tomato juice, the red wine and the bouquet garni. Leave for 2 hours to simmer. Reduce is so required.
Remove the bouquet garni, blender the sauce and transfer to the refrigerator.

Now for the Rape a la Marinera:

  • Monkfish
  • Olive Oil
  • Optional
    • Bay Leaf
    • Saffron
  • 2 Gamba’s (large Shrimps)
  • Vongole (clams, Vongola Veraci)
  • White wine
  • Bouquet Garni

Start by cleaning the monkfish and removing the skin where necessary. Clean the gamba’s by removing the intestinal tract. Leave the head and the tail. Check the vongole and discard ones that are broken. In general vongole don’t need much cleaning. As for spaghetti vongole, buy clams that are a touch sweet and juicy. Vongola Verace is best for both dishes.
In a large skillet fry the monkfish. When coloured add the sauce. Cook the fish by warming the sauce and covering the fish with the sauce. Maybe you want to add a bay leaf or two. A bit of saffron is a great addition but be careful; saffron can be very overpowering. In parallel add some white wine to a pan with a bouquet garni, let cook for 5 minutes. This is the cooking liquid for the vongole.
Now it’s about timing: add the gamba to the sauce and cook fish and gamba to perfection. Just before that moment, add the vongole to the pan with white wine, close the lid, cook for a few minutes until you see steam coming from the pan, remove the lid, check the vongole, add some vongole juices to the sauce with the monkfish and gamba’s, stir, taste, maybe add a bit more vongole juices and finally add a touch of pepper.
Serve with crusted bread.