Monkfish with Browned Butter Sauce
- 2 fillets monkfish, approximately 6oz each (can substitute with cod, halibut, mahi-mahi, etc.)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 Tbsps butter
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup broth (vegetable, chicken, or seafood)
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 1 tsp fresh tarragon, minced
- salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
DirectionsLiberally salt and pepper the fish fillets. Add oil to a pan heated to medium heat and lay the fish fillets onto the oiled surface. Cover the pan and cook for 6-10 minutes (depending on thickness of fillets), or until fully cooked inside (~140ºF/60ºC), flipping the fish halfway through cooking. Transfer the fish to a plate and set aside. Add the butter and garlic to the pan and heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter has start to turn a golden brown. Add the wine and broth, stirring well. Allow the sauce to reduce by half, then add the whipping cream. Allow the sauce to cook for a 2-3 minutes, then add the tarragon, stirring in completely. Add the fish back to the pan, spooning the sauce over the fish. Transfer to a serving dish. Serve immediately.
And now for the details…
So… monkfish. Have you tried this fish before? If you haven’t, I would say: no time like the present!
Monkfish has often been referred to as the “poor man’s lobster”, since it’s quite dense in texture, and a bit sweet in taste, a bit different from the typical flaky texture you get from many other white-fleshed fish. But I don’t love that reference, to be honest. It devalues the monkfish. Monkfish is similar to lobster in texture, but to think that the only thing it has to offer is as a cheap replacement to lobster is taking away the amazingness that is the monkfish! It doesn’t have quite the same flavour as lobster, it has a taste all unto itself: a bit sweet, salty, and of course there is no mistaking that it is in fact fish, but not an unpleasant fishy taste. And can we talk about the fact that you don’t need to shell it like you do lobster? BONUS!!!
Monkfish is a weird looking fish. I’m not sure which of our ancestors decided it would be okay to put this in our mouths, but they were certainly quite brave! Seriously, do a quick internet search for “monkfish” to see what these look like pre-fillet and you’ll understand what I mean. They are also aptly called “sea-devils”, which is nomenclature I can get behind. Could you imagine swimming and seeing one of these things drawing near??? Okay, I’m exaggerating, since you probably wouldn’t see them… From what I’ve read, they aren’t stalkers like a shark, and like to hunt by camouflaging themselves and waiting for their prey to draw near, but still!
An interesting bit of information I have found on these is that the only useable bits for the entire fish are the cheeks and the tail. If you’re not squeamish about watching a fish being filleted, check out this super cool video by Fish For Thought TV, where the gents break down an 18kg monkfish. They did some weighing throughout the process, and in the end, there was only just over 3kg of meat on an 18kg fish!
To get started with our cooking process, check out your fillets to make sure there is no membrane left on the fish. The fishmonger I had purchased my fish from had done a pretty great job of cleaning that fish before selling, and I had only a tiny bit of membrane left, and was able to remove it easily with my fingers, no knife needed! The membrane will cook to be quite tough and chewy, and considering the plump, meaty, juiciness of the fish, we definitely want to lose that membrane!
Next, salt and pepper your fillets quite liberally and let them sit for at least a few minutes. While you are waiting, get your other ingredients out and chop the garlic and set aside. This will allow you to move quickly through the cooking process, so you get to eating faster!
Next, add the oil to a medium- to large-sized pan. I suggested 1 tablespoon, but to be honest, you want just enough for a light coating on the pan. You can even use a paper towel to swish it around, coating the bottom surface, and soaking up any excess that isn’t needed. Heat the pan over medium heat, and then add the fish to the pan.
Cover the pan while the fish is cooking, lifting it only to turn the fish halfway through the cooking process. How long to cook the fish will totally depend on the size of the fillet. I used a temperature probe and aimed for an internal temperature of 140ºF/60ºC. It took my fillets about 10 minutes to cook through. The goal, like most fish, is for the translucent colour to turn opaque. Try to avoid overcooking the fish, since it can get dry and kind of tough if you cook it too long.
Once the fish is cooked through, take it out and place it on a plate to the side while you prepare the sauce.
Keeping the temperature the same, or just *slightly* higher, add the garlic and butter to the pan and let them cook, swirling the pan occasionally (as in, pick up the pan and swish it in a circular motion to get the butter and garlic to swirl around in the pan, then put it back down, repeating every now and again). This will go through a few steps here. First, the butter will melt down and encompass the garlic in a glorious hug. Next, the butter will kind of foam up, and the garlic will release that glorious smell. Then, both the garlic and the butter will start to brown and smell a bit toasty. That toasty smell is your cue to add the broth and the wine. When adding the liquid, things may get a little spurty. To minimize this, try to get the broth and wine to room temperature before adding, and stir well once you add them in. Let the sauce simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half, then add the whipping cream, stirring in completely. Let this come to a simmer and cook for another few minutes (1-3) until the sauce thickens slightly. Add the tarragon, then give the sauce a quick taste-test, and add salt and pepper to taste.
Next, add the fish back into the pan. This is just to reheat, not cook, the fish, so don’t leave it in for too long. Less than a minute for sure. Spoon the sauce up over the fish to help it reheat on all sides. Finally, transfer the fish to a serving dish, and then spoon the sauce over the fish, and serve!