Sunday, March 1, 2009
Bacon Wrapped Monkfish with Spicy Horseradish Aioli
Have you ever had Monkfish? It’s not horribly common and I’ve never seen it in the grocery store. The only offerings I’ve had have been in restaurants and I’ve found the flavor just remarkable. The other day I stumbled across a fish market that was a bit off the beaten path in Ozona, Florida and I was pleasantly surprised to see the fillets in the case. I asked the fishmonger about it and he told me they had just gotten this in fresh within the hour. Sold. Monkfish in hand, I headed home and began my little mental menu.
So many people are intimidated by fish but I find it cooks easier that almost anything else I create. From prep to finished meal is usually less than 30 minutes and Monkfish is no different. This exceedingly ugly animal is often compared to lobster for its firm texture and sweet taste. While I see that analogy, I think of Monkfish as a delicacy all its own and I frequently order it when I see it on a restaurant menu. I prepared 2 separate meals from this and both were delicious. The first one was so simple, it doesn’t really deserve too much discussion. I butter poached the fish then served it over some homemade potato chips. It was quite lovely. If you want to impress a crowd, make your own potato chips sometime and serve them with an elegant meal.
The next day I took a bit more time and made a seasoning of Cayenne, paprika, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and cumin. I lightly dusted cut up chunks of the raw fish then wrapped each in bacon and skewered them. They were then grilled over coals just to get a crust on the bacon. While the monkfish rested, I put together a super quick aioli with mayo, horseradish, Dijon mustard, and a dash of the spice rub. For the bottom of the plate I simply blanched then quick sautéed some sugar snap peas in butter. They perfectly retained their color and crunch but gave up a more tender bite. Biting into this fish produces a myriad of wonderful flavors and all perfectly accompanying to the delicate and succulent center of the fish. Sweet and rich and akin to a scallop, the monkfish does have its own flavor that is pure, clean and remarkably fresh. You could easily pay 25 bucks for this entrée at any decent seafood restaurant but you will rock a dinner party with this and it takes about 30 minutes top to bottom.
If you want to give Monkfish a go, I suggest finding a good seafood market and asking the fishmonger about it. I have been told that it is fished in Florida but all of my online research tells me that it comes from the Northeast. Since it is quite popular in parts of Asia too, it must have a broad ocean range so I suspect it can be fished in most places.
Bacon Wrapped Monkfish with Spicy Horseradish Aioli and Crispy Sugar Snap Peas
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cumin
(This the spice mix I make but you could easily substitute your own or even a store bought like Old Bay)
16 oz Monkfish fillets cut into about 20 “scallop sized” pieces
10 strips of bacon, cut in half
2 tbsp Mayo
2 tsp prepared horseradish
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 tbsp butter
2 cups sugar snap peas
Soak wooden skewers for 30 minutes beforehand. Mix the first 6 spices up in a small bowl. Lightly dust the fish with this. It should enhance the flavor but too much will overwhelm the delicate Monkfish. Wrap each piece of fish with bacon and circle the piece only once. Overlap just a bit. Trim excess bacon. Skewer through the overlapped portion and do not have too much extra.
Place on a hot grill and sear each side, depending on the temperature 2 minutes per side should do it. Can be done on the stove top or even the oven for that matter.
Mix the mayo, horseradish, mustard and about a tsp of the spice mix together in a small bowl.
For the peas, blanch in boiling water for about 30-60 seconds then remove them to a bowl of ice water. In a sauté pan melt the butter over medium heat and add the well drained peas. Warm through but do not brown.
Divide peas to 4 plates. Top each with bacon wrapped monkfish and place a small amount of the Aioli on each piece of fish.