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Monkfish in a Beurre Rouge

Dubbed “the poor man’s lobster”, monkfish, is a mild tasting, dense, lean, slightly sweet, beautifully white fish commonly found in French cuisine and becoming more popular in America. Unfortunately, the price per pound makes it almost as expensive as lobster. For a small kitchen this is a perfectly beautiful dish that is simple and needs few utensils.

Monkfish have a huge head and mouth. The only edible part is the tail, which is long. Usually you get a long, round filet with no bones. This makes it perfect for cutting into medallions or chunks for soups and stew. Because it is lean, you have to be careful not to overcook it. The cracked white peppercorns in the recipe add a spicy zing. The finished dish is as delicious as it is beautiful.

I usually saute monkfish medallions in brown butter, which is clarified butter that is cooked until it is slightly brown – it acquires a nice nutty flavor. Start by adding salt and pepper with a squeeze of lemon.

monk fish bowmanFor something a little more elegant, my friend Audrey showed me how she made Monkfish in a Beurre Rouge sauce for the Garden Restaurant in Philadelphia. You may be more familiar with a beurre blanc sauce, which is a classic French sauce made from butter, white wine, shallots and a touch of vinegar. A beurre rouge is made with red wine, which gives the sauce a slight tang and a beautiful rich ruby port color.

Cooking with friends is like Christmas morning: full of surprises, laughter and joy. Thank you Audrey!

Monkfish in a Beurre Rouge

Serves 4


1lb          monkfish filet, trimmed

½ c         clarified butter (you can use a high-heat oil like rapeseed, olive oil, or avocado oil)

10           white peppercorns, cracked with the flat side of a knife, or a hammer

pinch of salt

Beurre Rouge

¼ c         shallots, chopped

1             sprig of tarragon (optional)

1c           dry red wine like a Zinfandel

¼ c        fish or chicken stock

8T          plain butter, cut into 8 pieces


Hammer, plastic bag to crack the peppercorns in, measuring cup, tongs, large sauté pan


Monkfish is unusual in that it has a thin shiny fibrous skin over parts of the meat. Remove this filament. Cut the fish into medallions 1½ to 2” thick. Make sure the monkfish is dry. Lightly season with salt and the peppercorns. Heat your pan to medium high. Pour in 3 to 4 T of oil.

trimming monkfish use

Look at the picture I have included. See how the fish medallions are turning translucent? This is monkfish in pan with peppercornswhen you should start to think about turning them to brown evenly on the other side.

Remove the medallions to a warm plate.

Saute the shallots in the pan until they soften. Pour in the red wine and scrape the lovely bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the tarragon. Reduce the red wine by half, stirring occasionally. Add the stock. Now for the important part: swirl the pan vigorously and add the butter one or two pieces at

swirling burre rouge adding butter

a time while continuously swirling the pan. You want to incorporate the butter without it separating. Pour the beurre rouge through a fine sieve or cheesecloth to capture all the solid parts.

straining burre rougeWarm your dinner plates for a minute in the microwave. Pour some of the beurre rouge onto each plate. Place the monkfish in the middle. Now you have an elegant, beautifully presented dinner that is quick to make and delightful to eat.

Appetizer, Fish

Gravlax with Tequila

20150706 Gravelox ingredientsGravlax with Tequila

Gravlax is salmon that has been cured with, in this case, salt, tequila and herbs. It is easily prepared and stunning to serve. It’s one of my favorite dishes to take to a party or as a hostess gift – it always gets oohhhs and aahhhs.  Its beautiful color and delicate taste makes it a perfect hors d’oeuvre or first course. With a bagel and cream cheese, I like it for breakfast too.  This version came from my dear friend Audrey who was head chef at the Garden Restaurant in Philadelphia. We have such fun cooking together.  I always learn a lot!

Most of the time I serve gravlax thinly sliced in generous bite size pieces, along with small forks or a toothpick. Or I put the gravlax on a thin slice of pumpernickel or rye bread with a touch of butter, Neufchatel or Dijon mustard and a sprig from one of the herbs used in the marinade.

Preparation could not be simpler. The tequila and cilantro give the gravlax a southwest flare.

Note: The salmon has to cure in the refrigerator for 24 to 36 hours before serving.


2 to 3 lb of salmon cut into two equal, flat pieces.  Make sure it is scaled and deboned. You’ll make a sandwich with two salmon pieces acting as the bread and the herb mixture as the filling.

The cure:
1 c     kosher salt
1 c     dark brown sugar
4 T     grated lemon rinds (you will need 3-4 lemons)
1 T     minced shallot or 3 T fresh chives
3/4     bunch of cilantro, chopped
¼       bunch of dill, chopped
¾       bunch of flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
a few grinds of pepper
2 T     tequila


Mix sugar and salt.  Wash, thoroughly dry and chop the herbs and place in a bowl with the other dry ingredients. That’s it – the dry rub/cure is ready.

Rub your fingertips over the salmon to make sure it is completely deboned.  Often I find the small pin bones have not been removed.  A pair of needle-nosed pliers will remove them easily.  I leave the skin on.20150729 Gravlax herbs on salmon_MG_1379.CR2

Rub the salmon with the tequila. Pack the herb mixture onto the non-skin side of both pieces of salmon, then slap the two salmon pieces together with the skin on the outside to make a salmon sandwich with the herbs as the filling.  Wrap with cling wrap very tightly.   Put on a tray under a heavy weight, such as a foil-wrapped brick. I use a black iron skillet with a concrete statue from my garden on top.20150729 Gravlax wrapped_MG_1387.CR2

Place the weighted salmon on a tray in the refrigerator for 36 hours, turning the gravlax every 12 hours.

20150729 Gravlax weighted_MG_1396.CR2

After 36 hours unwrap the salmon, rinse off the cure and pat dry. Cut the gravlax like smoked salmon – cut into thin slices, on an angle. The gravlax needs to be refrigerated. Eat within a few days.