Sweet meaty monkfish poached in a red wine infused with garlic and herbs.
If you’d never eaten monkfish before and you asked somebody to describe its taste they’d probably say something like hummm….well…….its a bit like chicken. A good description because it hits the nail on the head. If there’s one fish that has a meaty quality to it than i’d have to agree its monkfish. Its got a mild, sweet, and succulent flavour with a texture and colour very similar to that of a chicken fillet.
Its little wonder then that a lot of the flavours that work really well with chicken marry well with monkfish too. I’ve done this before with my sticky lemon and thyme monkfish recipe, and here I go again but this time I’m recreating the French classic coq au vin, but using monkfish in place of chicken..
At its heart coq au vin is just a chicken stew made with red wine. But like all good stews it takes a bit of time and patience to make. It’s not just a case of throw everything in a pot and boil the life out of it for a couple of hours.
First you need to marinate the meat for a day, than fry it till nice and golden, before adding the herbs and vegetables and gently cooking it till juicy and tender. Back in the day a coq au vin would be thickened at the end of cooking with chicken blood. Now plain old corn starch does that job. I’d love to make and old school coq au vin with chicken blood just to see what it tastes like. I’m not having any luck finding chicken blood down the supermarket though and I’m not sure what environmental health would have to say about using blood as a thickening agent that these days.
Luckily this recipe is pretty quick. Theres no need to marinade the fish for 24 hours or for long and slow cooking. Instead to give the dish the rich and deep flavour you’d associate with the French classic you’re going to gently poach the fish in a red wine that’s been infused with garlic and fresh herbs. Total cooking time for the monkfish is just 3 minutes.
Poaching is a cooking method that’s gone out of fashion. The only thing people poach with any regularity is eggs. Poaching is considered boring and bland in most people’s eyes. But it all comes down to what you poach your food in. Just use water and its little wonder that the food is tasteless with a texture like cardboard. If your going to poach food than do it in stock, wine, beer, milk, or a classic court bouillon. Anything but h2o. Theres a classic salmon dish that’s poached in champagne (I’ve forgotten its name) talk about poaching extravagance.
One question you’ll probably have about this recipe is what type of red wine to use? I’m no wine expert, if fact I’m clueless on the subject. I enjoy the odd glass if I go out for dinner and that’s where my knowledge ends. But a good chef once told me never cook with anything you wouldn’t be prepared to drink…sound advice.
When you’re preparing the monkfish for poaching make sure to remove the membrane on the outside of the fish. Unfortunately your fish monger is highly unlikely to do this for you. He charges by weight and trimming this off would hit him in the pocket. If it’s not removed your beautiful monkfish tail might curl up into the letter C when you poach it. Not only that but it will be a bit tough when it’s cooked. If you’ve never trimmed a monkfish tail before then take your time and work slowly. Use a really sharp filleting knife to remove as much of the pink coloured membrane as possible without cutting off too much of the expensive sweet meat.
I like to serve monkfish au vin with some roasted carrots and mashed potato or crusty bread to mop up all the rich deeply flavoured sauce. Its real comfort food well suited to this time of the year when the days are much shorter and the weather takes a colder turn.
November marks a change in the style of cooking I do not only at home, but at work too. Gone are the lightly cooked dishes and salads of summer to be replaced with comfort dishes like roasts, slow braises, and stews. All dishes and styles of cooking you’d associate with meat. But fish can be comfort food too. Think luxurious fish pies, hearty chowder, and fish stews like this one.
Empty the red wine into a pot. Add your garlic, thyme, rosemary, and bayleaf. Bring the poaching liquor to the boil and let it reduce down by half.
When the red wine is reduced add your fish stock and bring the liquor back up to the boil. Then leave it aside to infuse. If you don’t have any fish stock than you can use chicken or in a worst case scenario water will do.
Next heat a large pan on the stove and add the pancetta lardons. Cook your lardons till golden and crispy. Dont worry if they stick to the bottom a little bit this adds to the flavour of the dish. When their ready remove them from the pan and drain well on paper towels.
Return the same pan to the heat and add your button mushrooms, fry them over a moderate heat till cooked and golden. Remove them from the pan and drain well on paper towels.
Return your pan to the heat and add your shallots. Saute over a moderate heat until the start to colour, then add the butter and sugar and continue to cook till the butter melts and the sugar is dissolved.
Return the lardons and mushrooms to your pan and toss everything together then leave the garnish aside because its time to cook the monkfish.
Bring the poaching liquor back up to the boil and gently slide in the pieces of monkfish tail. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook the monkfish for 3 minutes then remove them from the red wine and keep warm.
To make the sauce add half of the poaching liquor to the shallot mix and bring it up to a rapid boil.
Allow the sauce to reduce down for about 5 minutes till it starts to thicken and turns glossy.
When the sauce is ready add the monkfish back into the pan and coat them really well in the sauce.
To serve, remove the monkfish from the sauce and cut each piece in 3. This shows off the beautiful interior and snow white colour of the monkfish flesh and the rich red wine glaze on the outside. Place 3 pieces of monkfish around the plate and spoon the sauce,shallots, and mushrooms around.
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