When lobster became an inaccessibly expensive dish, monkfish replaced it. So much so, in fact, that it was once described as ‘lobster for the poor’. In the ports of Cornwall and other seafaring communities, it used to be considered as an easy, cheap meal for fishermen and their families. In some French markets, where its known as Lotte, it was banned due to its unsightly appearance.
Today, the fish is still unbearably ugly, but it's become feted and expensive, served on upmarket restaurant menus throughout the land…
Which leads back to our poor man’s lobster, the monkfish. Ironically, monkfish is now a star in the culinary world and can be just as expensive, if not more so, than lobster!
Experts like to say the tail meat of monkfish is very similar in taste and texture to lobster, and I do agree. I think it tends be a bit sweeter and not as rubbery too (a bonus!).
In the ocean, the monkfish’s strategy is simple: whatever comes along, attracted by the dangling light, the monkfish eats. Hence the nickname, “anglerfish.”
These gorgeous things are also known as “all mouth,” because most of the fish is taken up by the head, and the head is mostly mouth.
Chocolate-brown above and whitish underneath, the monkfish moves along the seafloor powered by a strong tail and large, arm-like pectoral fins. It is scooped up by a trawler or gillnetter looking for species’ of ground fish: hake, haddock, cod, flounder, redfish, or others.
Once caught, most of the monkfish — namely, its head — goes to the knife so that the Galician prized cheeks, similar in look to scallops and delicious, can be trimmed out. The head is used for stocks or as a prized ingredient in soupe de poison, leaving the edible, muscular tail for the entrée.