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March 7, 2003

Posted by Teresa at 08:22 PM *

Every so often, after I’ve fed Patrick his dinner, he comes back in, grabs me by the shoulders, and says “WRITE THAT ONE DOWN.” Last time he did that was when I came up with bacon and egg soup. Tonight we had fish.

Monkfish with saffron and roe

1-1/2 - 2 lbs. monkfish (2-3 good fillets)
fresh flying fish roe
1 small pinch saffron
1 can Campbell’s chicken broth
1 packet unflavored gelatin
1/2 stick of butter
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch green onions
1 bunch fresh cilentro
1/3 - 1/2 C. finely chopped fresh bell peppers, in colors
1/2 cup or less sour cream, cre8me fraiche, clotted cream, whatever
green olives
black pepper, white pepper, paprika

Wash your fillets and pat them dry. Salt them lightly all over.

Take the pinch of saffron and crumble it between your fingers into half a coffee mug of hot water. Nuke it a bit, give it a stir, and let it sit until the water turns golden-orange and reeks of saffron.

Put one can of chicken broth into a shallow saucepan and get it simmering. Add the saffron and water. Sprinkle in the gelatin and stir until it dissolves. Add the pepper, paprika, and half the butter. Peel and mash the garlic cloves and throw them in too. Let it boil until it starts thickening just a bit, then throw in the other half of the butter. Let that simmer too.

Now lay in the monkfish fillets and let them simmer in the broth. Turn them over every so often. While this is going on, chop up the green onions. Throw the white part into the pan and save the green part for later. Chop up the cilentro and throw it in too, and all but a little of the bell pepper. Keep turning the fish.

Meanwhile, take your clotted/fraiche/sour cream, stir it up so it’s smooth, and gently spoon the roe on top of it. Stir it until the two are marbled together, but not so much that it’s like a homogenous chip dip.

Just before the fish is done, throw in some of the green parts of the chopped green onions plus maybe a quarter-cup or less of lightly chopped green olives.

Gently remove a cooked fillet to a soup plate. Spoon some of the stuff out of the pan on top of it and around it. Now spoon a good wallop of sour cream plus fish roe down the middle. Sprinkle a scant handful of chopped green onions on top of that, plus a light sprinkling of chopped bell pepper, plus another little dollop of fish roe. Serve fast.

This is colorful food.

[Recipe Index]

Comments on Monkfish:
#1 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2003, 12:25 AM:

Sitting here in savage benighted Arizona, I am pondering the idea of a city where not only can one run down to the store for flying fish roe, but for FRESH flying fish roe.

#2 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2003, 03:25 PM:

My town (San Jose), you can not only get it, but have it delivered to your door by an ice cream truck. I kid you not. Friend of mine bought her fish from a converted ice cream truck that was now a sushimobile.

Our Japanese grocers around here are a little bit further afield, but we have an excellent sushi bar around the corner, so my quick solution would be to just get sushi for lunch and slip the chef a few bucks for a little container of tobiko on the side.

That would probably work in Arizona too.

#3 ::: Greg van Eekhout ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2003, 06:26 PM:

Bruce, I don't know what part of Arizona you're in, but in Phoenix, the Chinese Cultural Center is a pretty good place to find fresh fish. Lots of them are still swimming until you give the order to have them killed. Lee Lee Oriental Market in Chandler is another place to try. I don't know if either place has anything as exotic as flying fish roe, however.

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2003, 07:05 PM:

As it happens, the monkfish and roe did come from my Brooklyn neighborhood, because Patrick and I were both home sick with Upper Respiratory Scrud; but I usually get my fish by stopping off in Chinatown on the way home. There are a half-dozen fishmongers within a couple of blocks of the subway stop, and their prices are much lower than you see anywhere else.

Chinese are good for fresh fish, but for flying fish roe you need Japanese. The Valley's always had a substantial Japanese population -- the Ishikawas go back forever in Mesa, and I think the Matsumotos have been there nearly as long -- and with everything getting so populous and sophisticated out there, I wouldn't be surprised if there were retail establishments selling Japanese-style fish & related substances.

(On one level, I wouldn't be surprised. On another level, I'll never get used to it as long as I live.)

Anyway, what you really can't get in the Valley that's available right now in my neighborhood is dead-fresh shad and shad roe. I'm still sort of regretting not going for the shad. Monkfish I can get any week in the year.

#5 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 12:44 AM:

The thought has occurred to me that I might be able to get flying fish roe at AJ's. (For non-Phoenicians: AJ's is an upper-class, high-priced gourmet grocery chain, serving that portion of the populace rich enough to wear designer clothes, but still poor enough that they have to shop for their own groceries rather than just sending the servants.)

Failing that, I was afraid I might have to mug a sushi chef. Probably not a good idea. Those guys carry knives! And they know how to use them! And while the idea of a funeral with hundreds of little tiny coffins, each with a small slab of vinegared rice and a gobbet of something disgusting but presented in a highly aesthetic manner, has a certain perverse appeal... I think I'll pass.

#6 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 12:37 PM:

I've never had shad, but then it's not a west coast fish, so not much surprise there.

Had fresh snapper a while ago, however, and served it with potatoes and Frankfurt green sauce, which was far more difficult to compound. I'd gotten fresh borage from my girlfriend and gathered woodsorrel wild in Santa Cruz, then had to hit four different markets to get the other herbs. (Chives, watercress, dill, another type of cress and parsley from my garden.) But the sauce turned out wonderful, and there was enough to freeze the herbs for two more dinners.

#7 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2003, 11:17 PM:

Teresa: The Nero Wolfe cookbook has a bunch of shad roe recipes. Apparently Wolfe was quite fond of it, but it has a very brief season. If that season is March, obviously I need to make a trip to the East Coast in March.


#8 ::: Greg van Eekhout ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 11:44 AM:

What I want to know about purchasing seafood in the Valley of the Sun is this: should I trust lobster sold from mini-vans parked in vacant lots in Mesa? I think I already know the answer to this.

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