Monkfish Provencal

Have you ever seen a whole monkfish? It is ugly, ugly, primitive-looking. Scary bad. But have you ever tasted monkfish? It is one of my favorite fish, and one I hadn't eaten in many years because, similar to oft-compared to lobster, it can be very expensive (much of the time, lobster can be picked up cheaper than monkfish). Our local Whole Foods had monkfish on sale last weekend, and we grabbed two filets. Swoon. Ambrosial. Delectable.

When properly prepared, monkfish has a firm, meaty texture like lobster and is buttery and subtly sweet, well, similar to lobster dipped in butter. Monkfish is an easy fish for fish haters to like because it doesn’t have the fishy, gamey, assertive, in-your-face taste like salmon for instance. Mark Bittman refers to monkfish as the “veal of the sea,” because of its versatility. It works nicely cut into medallions, breaded, and sautéed or braised, which is the preparation I used. As with most fish, do take care not to over-cook it unless you enjoy eating rubber.
I was in the mood for polenta so I decided to make a simple Provencal sauce with garlic, onions, last of this season’s garden tomatoes, capers (no olives since Craig doesn’t eat them), white wine, and I threw in a few spoonfuls of homemade pesto at the end to add brightness to the dish (and it was too dark to head to the garden for fresh basil). We had a few strips of prosciutto in the frig, and I started by crisping those in the pan and sprinkled it atop the fish after it was done, which lent an understated saltiness as a foil to the sweetness of the tomatoes. This dish comes together in minutes, exceptionally easy without a lot of chopping or fuss. The monk fish melted in our mouths, and I was (almost) licking my plate. Beauty is only skin deep, and this is one luscious fish.

Monkfish Provencal
Serves 2, but easily doubles

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
A few slices of prosciutto (Costco now sells La Qercia prosciutto, which is outstanding)
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 good sized tomatoes, cored and chopped (I did not peel or seed)
1/2 cup good white wine
2 tablespoon capers, minced
2 tablespoon pesto
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
12 ounces monkfish, cut into “large” bite-sized pieces

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or other large, deep skillet. Add the prosciutto and sauté until well-browned. Remove from the pan and set aside. Crumble when cooled.
Heat the remaining olive oil. Add the onions and cook until they’ve softened, about five minutes.

Increase the heat and add the garlic and tomatoes. Stirring occasionally, cook until it starts to thicken and the juice from the tomatoes cooks off.
Add the wine and cook for another five minutes. Add the minced capers, the pesto, salt and pepper. Let the sauce cook for a minute or so and submerge the fish and cook until tender about seven minutes.

Garnish with the crumbled prosciutto.


  1. Oh yeah- he is UGLY but your dish sounds DIVINE!

    1. Ugly but worth seeking out and the fishmonger at the Town & Country Whole Foods indicated they will carry it now when it's on sale. Keep an eye out.

  2. Monkfish used to be really cheap, but you're right that it's become rather expensive. And it is really ugly, at least in the pictures I've seen of it - I've never seen a whole one. Anyway, nice dish. I wouldn't have bothered to peel or seed the tomatoes either - not enough payoff flavor-wise, IMO, for the work.

  3. I ate monkfish every day we were in Venice, I kid you not. Love it. Only bad thing? They often left the head on. Quite repulsive as yes- UGLY.

  4. Merci beaucoup, Denise!



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