SERVES 4 (FAST): In order to achieve moist and flaky monkfish, we use the stovetop and oven to cook it to the ideal temperature.
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Monkfish has a lobsterlike firm texture and slightly sweet flavor that are prized in Greek and other Mediterranean cuisines. Unlike other white fish, the chewier flesh of monkfish fillets comes from the hardworking tail, rather than the belly, which means it has long, sinewy muscle fibers that run its length. Because of this structural difference, we found that we had to approach cooking it differently than other fish. Typically, we cook white fish to an internal temperature of 140 degrees, but when we pan-roasted monkfish to this temperature, tasters found it unappealingly fibrous, mealy, and spongy. To improve the texture, we tested cooking the fish to incrementally higher temperatures and found 160 degrees to be the ideal internal temperature for our monkfish fillets—this higher temperature made the fish flaky and moist, while still retaining a firm and meaty texture. This made sense: Much like cooking cuts of meat from active muscles, such as pork butt or beef chuck, more cooking was needed to soften and break down the muscle fibers for tender results. Sprinkling the fillets with a bit of sugar helped them brown quickly on the stovetop, and finishing them in the oven ensured even cooking and moist flesh. With our fish cooked to perfection, we put together a bright, briny relish made with kalamata olives, red wine vinegar, and fresh oregano steeped in olive oil. The punchy Greek-flavored relish was the ideal counterpoint to the sweet monkfish. Monkfish fillets are surrounded by a thin membrane that needs to be removed before cooking. Your fishmonger can do this for you, but if your fillets still have the membrane attached, see below for more information on how to remove it.
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ cup pitted kalamata olives, minced
- 4 (4- to 6-ounce) skinless monkfish fillets, 1 to 1½ inches thick, trimmed
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- Combine 2 tablespoons oil and oregano in medium bowl and microwave until bubbling, about 30 seconds. Let mixture steep for 5 minutes, then whisk in vinegar, shallot, mustard, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Stir in olives and set aside for serving.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Pat monkfish dry with paper towels, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle evenly with sugar.
- Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch ovensafe skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place monkfish in skillet and press lightly to ensure even contact with skillet. Cook until browned on first side, about 2 minutes. Gently flip monkfish using 2 spatulas and cook until browned on second side, about 2 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and roast until monkfish is opaque in center and registers 160 degrees, 8 to 12 minutes. Carefully transfer monkfish to serving platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with relish.
To remove membrane from monkfish, slip knife underneath it, angle knife slightly upward, and use back-and-forth motion to cut it away from fish.