Cape Ann Fresh Catch was Monk fish and we received a hefty tail.
When I opened the bag to rinse off the fish, what I found was a speckled brown, headless fish with slimy skin hanging over a large hole where the head and internal organs used to be. A white spine bone, about a quarter inch in diameter, ran the length of the tail.
The recipe we received was for Monk fish Piccata which called for 1/2 inch monk fish tail medallions. Now my mistake was that I didn't research monk fish when I discovered I was going to have to cook it. This is one of the challenges of finding out the morning of what you'll be picking up later that afternoon. I try to cook the fish within a day of pick-up, so that means Thursday night is fish night at our house...whether I am ready or not...and I was definitely not ready.
So, as I laid the fish tail out on the cutting board and tried to wrestle off the skin and the slimy, gelatinous membrane between the meat and the skin, I found myself wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into and whether I should just toss the whole disgusting thing right into the garbage and call for take-out. I don't like to waste food, so I powered through. After I got through cutting away the skin and the membrane, the flesh that was left reminded me a little of the consistency of swordfish and was about the same color and texture.
I prepared the monk fish according to the recipe and popped it in the oven. I served it with a pilaf of pearled barley, butternut squash and kale. Let's just say it was not my finest meal. I overcooked the pilaf while I was fussing with the fish, so the pilaf reminded me of the gelatinous membrane I had just removed from the fish. The squash was too mushy instead of tender and the kale had lost it's bright green color. The fish came out of the oven tender, firm and flaky. My medallions were probably a little larger than the 1/2 inch called for in the recipe so it took a little longer to cook. Needless-to-say, we ate very late for a week night and I was disappointed to bring a less than satisfying meal to the table at such a late hour. PJ took one look at the whole thing and refused to eat. I didn't argue asking him to take three bites of pilaf and then I made him peanut butter crackers. Peter ate two helpings of the Monk fish Piccata and commented how it reminded him a little of salmon. I wasn't sure how I felt about the fish after my experience preparing it. One of the difficulties I had trying to figure out whether I liked the flavor of the fish was that it was covered with breadcrumbs and Romano cheese. The consistency of the fish held up well as medallions, but I think I would have enjoyed the fish more if it were not so heavily dressed.
Since I am committed to sticking with our CSF, I decided I'd better come to terms with monk fish as I am sure this will not be the last time I find its tail in my bag. So, I did a little research.
The monk fish is a bottom dweller found in Western Atlantic waters and is known by other names such as goose fish, angler, all mouth or frog fish. Based on the photos I ran across in my Internet search, the monk fish appears to be mostly mouth and tail. It is not attractive at all, though as I was rinsing the fish off, I thought that the tail and fins must look beautiful in the water as they were long and, other than the spines, soft and feathery. According to Zeuscat.com,"The only edible portions of the monk fish are its muscular tail and its liver. The tail meat of the monk fish is delicious: dense, sweet, and very similar to lobster tail meat in both flavor and texture. Like many fish, monk fish is an excellent low-fat, low-cholesterol source of protein and B vitamins."
After reading that the tail meat is similar to lobster, I decided that the next time I would try a simpler preparation so that I could decide for myself...maybe a butter wine sauce with fresh herbs. Through my research, I discovered that Monk fish can be braised, fried, steamed, broiled or grilled. Whole tails should be braised or poached. One blogger for the New York Times advised that to avoid having the monk fish meat become tough it needs to be kept moist when preparing. The blogger suggested a recipe to sear the tail meat and then finish the preparation in a sauce. Jamie Oliver has a lovely recipe for monk fish in a black olive sauce with lemon mashed potatoes that I may try the next time.
Besides how to cook the fish, I also wanted to find out if there was an easier way to remove the skin and membrane from the meat. EHow had great instructions for removing the skin, deboning and removing the membrane. Basically, it is pretty simple and straightforward if you have a good sharp knife.
So, the next time I find a monk fish tail in my bag, I will be better prepared both to cook it and savor it.