Showing posts with label monkfish. Show all posts
Showing posts with label monkfish. Show all posts

Friday, November 17, 2017

Irish Food

If all goes as planned, by the time you see this I’ll be back in West Cork, admiring the “improvements” to the cottage, including the very large rock, and collecting food supplies.

My husband hasn’t been there in a year, and my daughter, who will be joining us, hasn’t visited Ireland since 1999. Back then I remember a lot of terrible watery stews, all apparently based on the same recipe: Irish bacon (more or less like our ham), cabbage and potatoes. Place in a large pot, cover with water, and boil for a week or two. You could find it about anywhere in the country. (I will concede that the soda bread and local butter were always good.)

My, how things have changed! I was listing for my husband the places I wanted to revisit or visit for the first time on this trip, and far more than half turned out to be either restaurants or food vendors. At least my daughter has grown up to be a foodie, and is now a professional baker, when she isn’t acting with small theater troupes, and I want to show off to her what the Irish chefs have achieved since she was there last.

I’m torn between going to restaurants, large and small, versus buying fresh ingredients and cooking in my own tiny kitchen. When I acquired the cottage, the first thing I bought was a water-color from a local artist. After that I went straight to equipping the kitchen, before I bought more than a couple of pieces of essential furniture (a bed is handy, when the floor is concrete!). I’m getting by with the original appliances (although I am so coveting a Neff Slide-and-Hide stove, as seen on the Great British Baking Show—I think there’s room for it), but I’ve acquired decent cookware from a variety of second-hand dealers. And of course a hot-pot and French press for coffee, and a microwave.

Skibbereen Farmers' Market
I’ve raved about the Skibbereen Farmers’ Market before. Seafood, two tables of local cheeses (I’m partial to the gubbeen), locally smoked salmon, the lovely cookie and sweets baker I just discovered this past summer, bread in shapes I can’t even describe, vegetables that were picked that morning, plus assorted "tat."

Seafood, including monkfish!

This is only half the cheeses they have.
Mind you, this market has been there for centuries, literally—it is not the brainchild of a marketer who decided to create a magnet for upscale blow-ins (those pesky furriners who buy up the local properties—I don’t count as one because my name’s Connolly, and I had “people” in the area). People of all ages and descriptions show up at the market on a Saturday, then sit and chat. There’s a antiques dealer I’ve gotten to know (in his spare time he’s an editor and writes mysteries), and various people who have odds and ends to sell (at a very good price!). At this time of year there may be a jumble sale at the church on one side of the market. This isn’t food shopping—this is an experience. Which is why I always plan to be in the area for at least two Saturdays. 

And I adore the local supermarket, Field's SuperValu, which has food and more. 

Field's vegetable section: "Golden Wonder" potatoes
The candy aisle is six feet high and twenty feet long.

The baked goods are wonderful.

And this time of year you can get fresh game!

Oops—no recipe here! But I’m plotting one for my post next Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Don’t yet know what it will be (turkey is unlikely—the Irish save that for Christmas--but maybe a pheasant?) but I’m hoping I can figure out how my 1950 cast-iron Rayburn cooker works and produce something edible.

My cooker (I've cleaned it up a
bit since). Fuel goes on the left,
and you bake on the right. I'm
still trying to figure out what some
of the other parts do!
Wish me luck! 

Oh, right, books. It's definitely a week for the County Cork Mysteries!

The trade paperback format for Cruel Winter will be released on December 12th (just in time for holiday giving!), and . . .

the next book in the series, Many a Twist, will be released in hardcover on January 9th! Read more about it here.

I won't give anything away, but a lot of old questions will be answered.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Quick Monkfish

We were scheduled to have a guest star today, but things didn't go quite as planned, so I thought I'd share my quick and easy Monkfish lunch.

Monkfish is really ugly to look at.  Sorry, but it's true. 

It's known as the poor man's lobster, but I've played around and made it the poor man's scallops.  It's becoming more popular and the price has certainly gone up in my grocery store, so I'm not convinced that we can call it the poor man's anything anymore.  But it's still a tasty fish that, unlike many others, holds up very well and doesn't flake when it's cooked 

I was wondering what I could do with it for a quick lunch, so I kept it simple and reached for garlic.  The result was delicious, and amazingly fast.  Note that I cooked this over low heat.  If you accidentally use a medium setting, the fish will cook much faster, so time it accordingly.  Swapping the oil for butter would work very well.  And if you're a lemon lover, squeeze a bit on top of it in the pan!

Monkfish Medallions

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 piece Monkfish
2-3 cloves of garlic
salt to taste

Heat a skillet over medium-low temperature.  Add the olive oil and minced garlic.  Let the garlic infuse the oil for a couple of minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the Monkfish into round medallions about 1 1/2 inches in width.  Add them to the skillet and place a lid on top.  Cook about 4-5 minutes and flip the Monkfish.  Cover again and cook the other side about 4-5 minutes, or until cooked through but not tough.

Remove the Monkfish to a plate, scoop out some of the garlic and place on top of the fish.  Sprinkle with salt to taste.

Makes 2-3 servings.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


by Sheila Connolly

You suffered through my fresh-fruit-and-veg rant last week; this week you get my fish rant. Don’t worry—I’ll get it out of my system soon. Maybe. (Don’t even get me started on high-fructose corn syrup.)

I live in southeastern Massachusetts, no more than fifteen miles from open water, as the crow flies. You remember—Massachusetts is on a coast? So why can’t I get fresh fish around here?

At my local supermarket, I peruse the fish section weekly. I like fish, both to eat and to cook. But not if it’s been flown from Norway or Indonesia (see last week’s rant). Of the ten or so varieties the market offers week to week, only occasionally is one fresh. Yes, I know that many of our oceans have been overfished, so I accept that many of the fish have been flash-frozen on a far-distant ship and then delivered to our markets, where they are thawed (note: I recently bought some perfectly lovely flounder that had endured that process, and while it tasted fine, it disintegrated into mush when I tried to cook it).

A couple of years ago I found a French fish poacher at a yard sale, where it was classified as a tool box. I paid five dollars for it, then went hunting for a whole fish to cook. No dice. Yes, we have a “real” fish market in town, but the fishmonger had no whole fish. His suggestion? Go to Sandwich, on Cape Cod, and stand on the dock waiting for the fishing boats to come in.

In June we spent a night in Galilee, Rhode Island, courtesy of my daughter, who had a couple of nights left on a shared rental (and was actually willing to invite her parents!). Galilee is tiny, and it’s an honest fishing town. It has lots of serious fishing boats that go in and out daily. And (sound of trumpets) it has a fish market, mere feet from the water. And I fell in love with a piece of monkfish.

I first encountered monkfish on an old Julia Child French Chef episode, where she started by hauling one of the critters onto a chopping block. Those things can be big! The strange thing is, you don’t eat most of it, just the tail (although I’m told that some chefs enjoy the liver). The rest you throw away.

If you’ve never eaten monkfish, you’re in for a treat. It’s firm and white, with a texture much like lobster, and a bit of the same sweet flavor. The first time I ate it was in a small pub in Ireland, believe it or not (although they are surrounded by water, the Irish have never been much into eating fish, even during the Great Famine), with one harried woman cook, kids running around, and a drunk sleeping on the bar. I ordered the monkfish (with a tarragon cream sauce) and was astonished: it was wonderful.

Of course, if you want to try to cook monkfish at home, you have to find monkfish, which is not easy. Therefore I was thrilled to come upon a nice chunk of it in Galilee. It had my name written all over it.

Then I had to find a recipe. The nice thing about monkfish is that it will stand up to stronger flavors, and I was in the mood for something savory. Since I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted (despite at least five fish cookbooks plus the help of Epicurious), I decided to improvise, and this is what I came up with:

To serve four:

1½-2 pounds monkfish, cut into serving-size portions
12 black, salt cured olives, rinsed, pitted, and roughly chopped
1 Tblsp. bottled capers, rinsed
One small yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped (or you can use a garlic press—sorry, Julia Child)
1 large. can diced tomatoes (okay, sure, you can grow your own, peel them and dice them—but opening the can is easier), with their juice
¼ cup white wine
Olive oil for sautéing
Salt and pepper to taste

Lightly season the monkfish pieces on both sides with salt and pepper.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil, then sauté the onion and garlic on medium heat until soft but not browned. Add the white wine and raise the heat and cook until the alcohol evaporates. Add the chopped tomatoes with their juice, lower the heat, and let simmer until the liquid is reduced by about a third. Add the chopped olives and capers. Taste the sauce before adding any additional salt—both the olives and the capers can be salty. (Feel free to add herbs if you like—oregano would be good with this, and fresh basil brings out the sweetness in the fish.)

Nestle the fish pieces into the sauce and baste them well. Cover the pan and simmer gently until the fish is cooked. How long this takes will depend on the thickness of your fish pieces, so keep an eye on them, and don’t let them overcook.

You could also finish this in the oven. Prepare your sauce as above, then place the fish filets in a baking dish and pour the sauce over them, and cook in a 400 degree oven until the fish is cooked (but it’s harder to tell when that happens if the dish is in the oven—and it seems like a waste to heat up the oven for something that will be in there for only a short while).

Serve over rice.

And if you aren’t lucky enough to find monkfish, this recipe will work as well with a sturdy white fish such as cod or halibut, wherever it’s from.

Sorry I didn't think to take a picture of my monkfish before I ate it, so you'll have to settle for another pretty picture of Galilee. Where from a restaurant we watched a man standing on the dock catch a two-foot-long fish.