monkfish, caper butter, tarragon; warm onion-tomato salad

Do this at home. You’ll love it.

It was, literally, a ‘wonderful’ treat. Monkfish is the delicacy the French know as Lotte, the Italians as Coda di rospo, the Spanish as Rape, the Germans as Seeteufel (the English call it Anglerfish, which in fact is what it is).

It is a very special fish.

Before I had prepared this particular dish I have to say that I had no idea just how wonderful it could be, even though we’ve enjoyed Monkfish often in the past, and I’ve also had fun preparing it.

Where did this recipe come from? I didn’t want to turn on the oven on Wednesday, so that eliminated one of my favorite routines. Also, I wanted to try something other than my usual alternatives, even though we had always thoroughly enjoyed what had become our standards over the years.

I was about to give up the search, through my files, my cookbooks, and then on line, when I came across a recipe attributed to Florence Fabricant that intrigued me for its simple assembly and for its modest, yet slightly odd list of ingredients.

But I was skeptical about the instruction to coat the fish with flour and sautéed on only one side, and also for “no more than a minute or so”; I had never heard of doing such a thing in preparing fish, or meat.  I double-checked the text elsewhere for accuracy, and the same lines came up.

I decided to take a chance (even though I made a note to myself that I might have to flip the fish over, and/or keep it above the flame a little longer). It came together beautifully. Fortunately I had the sense in time to realize the monkfish I had brought home were all about twice the thickness of those described in the recipe, so I sliced them in half horizontally.

This is going to become my new favorite monkfish preparation. I think that the idea of starting with ground mustard seed is a brilliant touch, and I think I payed a modest homage to it by sprinkling some mustard-colored nasturtium blossoms on top at the very end.

  • monkfish with caper butter prepared following this great recipe, starting off, I believe, with 6 tails (14 ounces total) from Blue Moon Fish Company; local North Country Farms Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour seasoned with salt, pepper, and ground mustard seed; unsalted Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter; several minced ramp roots from Berried Treasures Farm (substituting for the shallots); Sicilian salted capers, thoroughly rinsed; organic lemon, juice and wedges, from Whole Foods Market; chopped tarragon leaves from Keith’s Farm; and, my own innovation, a few nasturtium blossoms from Berried Treasures Farm, chopped, on the very top, to finish the dish
  • two large handfuls of tomatoes (2 large red and a number of small multicolored cherry tomatoes) from Alex’s Tomato Farm, allowed to warm and begin to soften inside a tin-lined copper pan in which several halved red spring onions from Alewife Farm had already been sautéed in a little olive oil until they had begun to caramelize, a little minced garlic from Norwich Meadows Farm added near the end, before they had, the tomatoes and alliums seasoned with sea salt, freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, and finished with torn basil from Stokes Farm
  • the wine was a California (Central Coast) white, Rick Boyer Coastal White Blend 2016, from Naked Wines
  • the music was Handel’s ‘Flavio’, René Jacobs conducting Ensemble 415