Phenomenal with this simple butter sauce, which really moves the monkfish in a lobstery direction
1 1/2 pound monkfish fillet, cut into 16 slices, each about 1/4 inch thick (see directions in headnote)
2 teaspoons coarse salt
tablespoons unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, very finely minced
4 canned tomatoes
flour for dredging fish (preferably Wondra)
1/4 cup olive oil
1. With a small, sharp knife, cut little nicks all around the circumference of each fillet (about 8 nicks per fillet). Divide the coarse salt among the fillets, sprinkling on each side. Place the fillets on a rack so that water can drip away. Let drain for 1 hour.
2. While the fillets are draining, prepare the sauce: place 1 tablespoon of the butter in a small saucepan over very low heat. Add the garlic cloves and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. (Do not allow the garlic to brown.) Squeeze the juice out of each tomato, then squeeze the tomatoes into the pan, breaking them up with your hand. Stir well and cook over moderate heat for 1 minute. Remove from heat and reserve.
3. When almost ready to cook, wash the fillets under running water. Dry thoroughly. Place flour on large platter, and dredge fillets in flour, coating them thoroughly. Return fillets to rack for 10 minutes to dry.
4. When ready to serve, place the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan over moderately high heat. Cook until butter melts and foam has subsided. Add the monkfish fillets in a single layer. (Do not crowd. If you don't have a large enough sauté pan, cook the fillets in 2 batches.) Cook, turning once, until each side is golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove monkfish fillets to paper towels, and then place on dinner plates, 4 to a plate.
5. Return the reserved tomato mixture to low heat. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, and heat until butter is just melted. Pour sauce over fish, and serve immediately.
This combination of techniques adds up to our favorite way to solve the watery/curly problem. First of all, you lay the monkfish fillet out on the kitchen counter, membrane side down. Then, working with a sharp knife and holding that knife at a 45-degree angle to the counter, you begin slicing off 1/4 inch thick slices of monkfish, leaving behind the tough membrane on the bottom of the fish fillet. When you're done cutting, you'll have approximately 16 membraneless monkfish slices, and a tough membrane to discard. Then, a combination of cutting and salting (see above) removes the potential for wateriness and curling. Finally, a dip in flour -- amazingly, instant flour performs this job best -- seals the job. The fillets, after cooking, are crisp, dry, straight as a board, and phenomenal with this simple butter sauce, which really moves the monkfish in a lobstery direction. Serves 4