Saturday, March 28, 2015


I’ve really splurged this week, buying monkfish. Years ago monkfish, fished locally (Mediterranean), used to be incredibly cheap, poor people’s fish. Now, it’s widely commercialized, so the price has soared (€9.90/kilo or about $4.90/pound for a whole fish, including the monster head).

Monkfish is one of the ugliest fish in Spanish markets, but very good eating. It has a huge head and slim tail, a little like an enormous tadpole that never got around to turning into a frog. The meaty tail is easily filleted. It has no scales, so is not kosher. This specimen has had its nasty teeth removed.
Monkfish (Lophius piscatorius) is called rape in Spanish (pronounce that in two syllables: rah-pay). In American markets “monkfish” is a name also used for the angel shark (listed as “critically endangered”), so be sure what you’re buying. In England monkfish is called anglerfish. In French, it’s lotte or lists American monkfish as a “good alternative.” So, if you see it at your fish market, go for it.

Monkfish was always my favorite choice for fish soup and any kind of seafood stew because its firm flesh doesn’t disintegrate in cooking. But as it’s become so pricey, I rarely buy it anymore.

About half the fish’s weight is it’s enormous head, which is ideal for soup. However, in US markets, you'll probably  find only the tail section. It’s very meaty, with only a round center bone, easily removed, and no fiddly fins and spines. That makes monkfish a perfect fish for people who are impatient with fish with bones.

A real meaty fish, it has white, sweet flesh that somewhat resembles lobster, for which it can be substituted in any favorite lobster recipe.

Monkfish liver is also much appreciated. In fact, most of the American catch gets shipped to Japan, where the liver is considered a delicacy. In Spain, the liver is made into a pâté or spread, delicious on toast.

One of my favorite ways to cook monkfish is skewered and grilled as kebabs with a garlicky marinade. Another is cazuela de rape with an almond-saffron sauce. That recipe appears here in a blog about cooking in clay pot cazuelas (which, incidentally, is still my most-visited blog post). Another great recipe is suquet, a Catalan seafood stew (recipe here.)

Monkfish cooks in a tomato-wine sauce with shrimp and clams.

This week I’m making a really simple fishermen’s dish, rape a la marinera or monkfish, mariner’s style (once saw that translated into English as “rape, sailor style”).

Monkfish cut into bone-in slices.

After skinning and removing the head from a 3-pound fish, I had about 1 ¼ pounds bone-in slices from the tail. While this would serve 3—two slices each—two of us easily ate it all! A splurge, yes, but so worth it. (And, the head is still in the freezer, waiting for a soup-making day.)

Monkfish, Mariner’s Style
Rape a la Marinera

Succulent fish in sauce is good served with rice as a side.

Rice is a good side dish to soak up the savory sauce.

Serves 4-6.

2 pounds bone-in monkfish slices
½ pound small clams, soaked in salt water to clean
Flour for dredging
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cups finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped green pepper
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups grated tomato pulp (about 3 large tomates)
1 bay leaf
½ cup white wine
¼ cup water or clam liquid
6 ounces large peeled shrimp

Sprinkle the fish with salt and allow to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Drain the clams and place them in a small pan. Cover and place them on a high heat until shells open, shaking the pan. Remove from heat and reserve the clams. (If desired, sieve the liquid to add to the sauce.)

Dredge the pieces of fish in flour and shake off excess flour in a sieve.  Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the fish until golden on both sides. It does not need to cook through. Remove fish and reserve.

Add the onion, peppers and garlic to the oil and sauté until softened. Add the tomato pulp, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, bay leaf, wine, water and 1 teaspoon salt. (If you have used clam liquid, you may need less salt.) Simmer 15 minutes until sauce is thickened.

Return the fish to the skillet (or place fish and sauce in a cazuela). Add the shrimp and clams. Cook on medium heat until fish is cooked through and shrimp are pink, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with additional chopped parsley to serve.

Monkfish, mariner's style.

Paté de Higado de Rape
Monkfish Liver Pâté

Monkfish livers.

2-4 ounces monkfish liver
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon dry Sherry
1 hard-cooked egg
Pinch of smoked pimentón (paprika), optional
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
Toasts to serve
Capers, strips of red pimiento, parsley to serve

Place the livers in cold water to cover with ½ teaspoon salt. Soak, refrigerated, 30 minutes. Rinse the livers and cut into pieces.

Heat the oil in a small skillet and sauté the shallot until softened, 3 minutes. Pat the liver dry and add to the skillet. Fry, turning, until lightly browned. Add the Sherry and simmer until liver pieces are cooked through. Remove and cool.

Place the liver and shallots in a mini food processor with the egg, pimentón if using, parsley and lemon juice and process until coarsely chopped. Season with pepper. Refrigerate.

To serve, spread the pâté on toasts, Garnish with capers, strips of red pimiento and parsley.

Monkfish liver pâté on toasts.


  1. Shazam....that looks good.

  2. Buenas tardes,

    Si ustedes viven en Canadá o EE. UU. y desean saber mas de la cultura Española, por favor visiten el siguente enlace:

    Luis Garcia

  3. This looks beautiful and reminds me of my time in Spain. Just lovely.


    1. Jayson: Thanks for sharing the Greenpeace link about bottom trawling.