Spicy, savory and deeply satisfying, this flavorful baked monkfish recipe with a spicy pepper relish and garlic broccolini is a fabulous dinner party menu or date night for two at home, especially when served over Creamy Parmesan Rice.
Monkfish, sometimes called poor man's lobster, is a revelation if you're new to this lovely bit of seafood. Its firm texture and sweet flavor are reminiscent of lobster, but monkfish presents so many more flavor opportunities.
While the nickname makes you think of lobster when preparing monkfish, I think of it more as pork tenderloin. In addition to the very similar shape, the texture is firm and takes on the flavors around it so well, making it a perfect canvas for anything you throw into a baking dish.
In this particular baking dish, I'm piling all my favorite flavors from DiNic's Roast Pork in Philadelphia. In Reading Market, a magical place brimming with food stalls from some of the city's best restaurants, you'll find one of the most delicious sandwiches ever created.
While pork is the protein in DiNic's famous sandwich, the supporting flavors from this Italian recipe's intensely savory spice rub, garlicky broccoli rabe and spicy peppers are the perfect pairings for monkfish fillets.
The monkfish in this recipe roasts in the spice rub and the pepper relish, then slices beautifully into meaty medallions. Served over Creamy Parmesan Rice, it's one of my favorite recipes and a delicious flavor combination.
Thanks for the inspiration, DiNic's!
What you'll need to make this Italian monkfish recipe:
- Monkfish fillets
- Ground fennel
- Dried thyme
- Dried oregano
- Fresh rosemary
- Sea salt
- Olive oil
- Hot green peppers or Hungarian hot wax peppers
- Red onion
- Fresh garlic
- Green olives
- Broccoli rabe or broccolini
- Lemon wedges
Complete measurements and directions included in the printable recipe card below.
Step by step instructions for Roast Monkfish:
To begin, make your spice rub. Combine ground fennel, thyme, oregano, fresh rosemary and salt in a spice grinder or use a mortar and pestle to create a spice powder. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Dry the monkfish fillets with paper towels or tea towels. You'll notice that monkfish fillets have a similar shape as a pork tenderloin, with one end that is thick and round, and the other narrowing to the point of a tail.
In order to create a fillet that will cook evenly, we will fold the monkfish tails up to make an even-shaped fillet, then use kitchen twine to tie it. I've made this recipe without tying the fillets, and it still tastes great, but you just can't keep the thin tail from overcooking. So if you have twine, I recommend taking the extra 2 minutes to tie up the fillets.
Once tied, drizzle olive oil over each fillet, then sprinkle liberally with the spice mixture.
Place a cast iron skillet (or other oven-safe pan) over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, diced hot peppers, onions and garlic cloves. Saute for 3-4 minutes with a pinch of salt.
Push the lightly sautéed veggies to the edges of the pan, and add your monkfish fillets. Cook over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Turn the fillets in the skillet, add two tablespoons of butter to the pan, then move the skillet to the oven to roast for about 12 minutes.
While the monkfish is roasting, heat a second skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, sliced garlic cloves, broccolini, salt and pepper. Cover the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes.
After the monkfish has baked 12 minutes, remove from oven, turn, and baste in the buttery spice mixture.
Return to oven for another 6-8 minutes, or until the fillets are baked through and reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Once fully cooked, remove the fish from the oven. Allow the fish to rest in the pan for 5 minutes.
Remove the diced peppers and onions, which will be softened and lightly browned, to a small bowl. Add the diced green olives and mix. Taste and adjust seasoning.
To finish the broccolini, remove the lid and add a tablespoon of butter, sautéing for the last 2 minutes, until the greens are lightly charred but still crisp-tender.
Once rested, transfer the roasted monkfish fillets to a cutting board, and using a sharp knife or kitchen sheers, cut the kitchen twine off the monkfish, then slice the monkfish (like a pork tenderloin) and place fish over creamy parmesan rice with the garlic broccolini on the side.
Then spoon the charred pepper and olive relish over the top of the fish. Serve with lemon slices for a squeeze of lemon juice over the broccolini and fish.
FAQs and Serving Suggestions:
No other white fish has quite the same meaty texture that monkfish provides, but the spice rub and spicy pepper and olive relish would be delicious over the top of fish like salmon or swordfish steaks.
The peppers and onions work without the olives - just add an extra squeeze of lemon juice to increase the acidity. The spice-rubbed monkfish can stand on it's own without the relish, so if you're in a rush or out of the ingredients, make the spice rubbed fillets and serve with the rice and broccolini.
In the US, most monkfish fillets are sold already cleaned of the purple-blue membrane. Ask your fishmonger to be sure it's done before they wrap it for you. If you get home and see the membrane still attached, just use a sharp knife with a thin blade (like a fillet knife) and carefully cut away strips of the membrane, starting at the top, thick part of the monkfish fillets. Slowly cut away the length of the membrane, then turn the fillet and continue slicing until the membrane is fully removed.
To store, transfer the monkfish to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator up to 2 days. To reheat, warm gently in a skillet with butter over medium-low heat until just heated through.
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