Friday, September 21, 2012

Grilled Poor Man's Lobster

Grilled monkfish with baby eggplant

Monkfish is a very dense, moist fish.  Up till now, I've steamed it and done a sweet and sour take on it with ingredients like apricot jam and Asian sour figs or have gone more Mediterranean by roasting it with sun dried tomatoes, lemon and basil.  Both excellent options, but I recently heard about grilling it - and the results are delicious!
Who'd have thunk?
Monkfish is called the "poor man's lobster" because it has the consistency of a lobster tail but is much less expensive.  Citarella's sells it for $14.99 a pound.  So we're talking $7.50 per serving.  I never considered grilling it because it's very thick in addition to being moist.  But if you get your fish monger to butterfly the fillet you solve the problem of it being too thick to grill.

Step 1: Dry with paper towels

You can tackle the moistness issue by drying the fish off with paper towels, then covering it with coarse sea salt, wrapping it in more paper towels, and letting it dry out for a few hours in the fridge.

Step 2: Cover with coarse sea salt
and wrap in paper towels.  Let stand for a few hours.
Don't worry about all that salt.  It's there to draw the moisture from the fillet.  When you are ready to start grilling shake off the salt and wipe off any residual salt with paper towels. 
Step 3: Marinate in garlic, lemon zest and extra virgin olive oil

Hopefully you buy your paper towels at Costco because this recipe uses a lot of them!  But it's worth the investment.  Never have I had monkfish that really tasted like lobster tail. 

After you marinate toss on a sizzling hot grill
Next is the marinade.  I use chopped fresh garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.  I use the oil mainly so the monkfish won't stick to the grill.

Love that char!
I use my George Foreman grill for this recipe but if you don't have one, a cast iron skillet will do the trick (but put on your list of things to do: buy an electric grill).  If you have an actual outdoor charcoal or gas grill, fire the baby up. Grill for 2 - 3 minutes on each side.  Note for electric grill users: I don't put the top down and cook both sides at once.  I grill each side on its own and put the cover down at the end for about 30 seconds.  It's very easy to overcook this dish so be careful and err on the side of undercooking.  You can always toss it back on the grill if you have to - but once it's overcooked, that's it.  

Poor man's lobster

Et voila!

I serve the grilled monkfish with grilled baby eggplant - a match made in heaven!  Grilled asparagus would go nicely, too.   So even if you aren't a poor man, check this dish out!
1/2 lb monkfish per person - have the fish monger butterfly 
2 tbspns coarse sea salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbspns extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1 tspn lemon zest (zest the lemon before cutting and juicing) 
Salt & pepper to taste
Dry monkfish with paper towels
Cover fillet with the coarse sea salt
Wrap in paper towels and transfer to fridge for 4 - 6 hours
Remove fish from paper towels and shake off the sea salt
Remove any excess salt with paper towels
Marinate for at least 30 minutes
Grill for 2 - 3  minutes per side depending on thickness
Serve and enjoy!

The fillet in the center actually looks like lobster tail