If you are looking for a simple yet delicious way to prepare monkfish, look no further than this pan-fried monkfish with parsley butter. With only a few simple ingredients that are probably in your pantry already, you can have this delicious fish supper on the table in under 20 minutes.
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If you have ever seen a live monkfish in all its glory, you probably wouldn't think it was even edible, never mind one of the most delicious fish to come out of the sea!
The fish is covered with thick dark black or brown mottled skin and has a huge head with a wide gaping mouth filled with sharp teeth. It has been said that it has a face that only a mother could love.
However, once the head and skin have been removed, you are left with the monkfish tail which is highly prized for its lobster-like taste and texture. The tail is a firm cut of fish, separated into two halves by a main central bone. Apart from this large bone, there are no other smaller bones in the flesh.
Monkfish tails are often referred to as poor man's lobster. They have a slightly sweet taste, with a firm texture and can be prepared in various ways such as pan-frying, grilling, baking and poaching.
A monkfish is low in calories and high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids which are important for heart, brain and bone health. Read more about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
This recipe that I'm sharing today is for pan-fried monkfish basted with parsley butter. This is a quick recipe and takes less than 15 minutes to cook. Basting the fish in butter as it cooks results in soft and juicy flesh with tons of flavour.
I like to serve the monkfish on a bed of smashed minted peas with boiled baby potatoes on the side, drizzled with parsley butter and garnished with chives.
Simple fare, but a meal fit for a king!
What you will need
All you will need by way of equipment is a frying pan for frying the monkfish.
This recipe will serve 2 people depending on appetite.
These are the ingredients you will need:
- monkfish tails - you can buy ready-filleted monkfish tails where the fishmonger has removed the central bone. If you do what I did and buy the tails with the bone still in, I've got instructions below on how to remove the bone. You should allow approximately 150 to 180 grams or 5 to 6 ounces of fish per person (weighed without the bone).
- sunflower oil - this is for frying the first side of the monkfish. I would recommend that you use a neutral-flavoured oil for this.
- butter - this is for frying the other side of the fish and also for basting the fish as it cooks.
- parsley - fresh parsley is best. I wouldn't recommend dried parsley for this dish.
- chives - once again, use fresh chives.
- You will also need salt and ground black pepper for seasoning.
**Find the full quantities on the printable recipe card at the end of this post**
What to do
The first step below is to remove the central bone from the monkfish tail. You can skip this step if you have bought monkfish that has already been filleted.
The second step demonstrates cutting the fillets in half. The reason for doing this is that the fillets are thicker at the top end of the tail and will require slightly longer in the pan. For evenly cooked fish I would recommend cooking the thicker pieces for a minute before adding the thinner pieces.
How to fillet a monkfish tail
Using a sharp knife, run it along the central backbone to remove the fillet. Keep the knife as close to the bone as possible. Repeat on the other side so you end up with two fillets.
Cut each fillet into half to separate the thicker pieces from the thinner tail-end pieces.
Pan-fry the monkfish
Sprinkle the fish with salt and black pepper to taste. Heat the sunflower oil in a pan then add the thick pieces of fish. The oil should sizzle slightly when the fish is added. Fry for one minute and then add the thinner pieces. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes longer until the underside is starting to brown.
Use a pair of tongs to turn the monkfish then add the butter and allow it to melt.
Continue to cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes until the fish is cooked. While the fish is cooking, tilt the pan slightly and use a spoon to baste the fish with the butter. Remove the thinner pieces of fish as soon as they have cooked through and continue to baste the thicker pieces until they are completely cooked.
Remove all the fish from the butter and leave it to rest for 5 minutes before serving. While the fish is resting, stir the chopped parsley into the butter in the pan and heat through.
Serve hot, drizzled with the parsley butter and garnished with chopped chives.
If you've bought the monkfish in advance you can freeze it until you are ready to use it. Fresh monkfish can be frozen in an air-tight container for up to three months.
I would not recommend freezing and reheating the cooked monkfish.
Leftovers can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 to 3 days.
In order not to overcook the monkfish I would recommend cutting the fillets in half to separate the thicker top part from the thinner tail end. Add the thicker pieces to the pan a minute before the thinner pieces, and remove the thinner pieces as soon as they are cooked.
Monkfish are most commonly found in both the Atlantic and Indian oceans. In the UK they are caught off the South West coast around the Cornwall area, and also in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland. However, studies have shown that while the stock of monkfish along the Cornish coast is on the increase, monkfish from the North Sea have received a red warning and should be avoided.
Studies have shown that while the stock of monkfish along the Cornish coast is on the increase, monkfish from the North Sea have received a red warning and should be avoided.
In the US, wild-caught monkfish are sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under US regulations.
Monkfish can become chewy or rubbery due to overcooking. It reaches optimal doneness when it reaches an internal temperature of 63 degrees C or 145 degrees F. The internal temperature will rise as the fish rests, so it's best to remove it from the heat at a slightly lower temperature.
Save for later
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Looking for other fish recipes? Try these:
Here are some ideas for side dishes to serve with pan-fried monkfish:
Pan-fried monkfish with parsley butter
(Click the stars to rate this recipe)
- 12 ounces / 340 grams fillets of monkfish if the fish is still on the bone add an extra 100 grams (3½ ounces)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 1 ounce 30 grams unsalted butter
- 1 small bunch parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives for garnish
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- To remove the central bone from the monkfish, use a sharp knife and cut alongside the bone, keeping the knife as close to the bone as possible. This will remove the first fillet. Repeat on the other side of the bone to remove the second fillet.12 ounces / 340 grams fillets of monkfish
- Cut each fillet into half to separate the thicker pieces from the thinner tail-end pieces.
- Sprinkle the fish with salt and black pepper to taste.Salt and black pepper to taste
- Heat the sunflower oil in a pan then add the thicker pieces of fish. The oil should sizzle slightly when the fish is added. Fry for one minute and then add the thinner pieces. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes longer until the underside is starting to brown.1 to 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- Use a pair of tongs to help you turn the monkfish then add the butter and allow it to melt.1 ounce 30 grams unsalted butter
- Continue to cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes until the fish is cooked. While the fish is cooking, tilt the pan slightly and use a spoon to baste the fish with the butter. Remove the thinner pieces of fish as soon as they have cooked through and continue to baste the thicker pieces until they are completely cooked.
- Remove all the fish from the butter and leave it to rest for 5 minutes before serving. While the fish is resting, stir the chopped parsley into the butter in the pan and heat through.1 small bunch parsley
- Serve the monkfish hot drizzled with parsley butter and garnished with chives. This dish can be served with your choice of potatoes and fresh vegetables.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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