A true taste of Portuguese cuisine, this rich and savory monkfish rice stew is flavored with wine, tomatoes, garlic, smoked paprika and brimming with gorgeous chunks of monkfish, but you'll swear it's lobster tail. Make this classic dish and enjoy these warm Southern European flavors any night of the week.
Seafood rice is a common dish throughout Portugal. Some recipes call for shrimp or a combination of shrimp, crab, clams and calamari. One common variation features monkfish - a popular white fish served in this creamy and comforting rice and veggie stew.
Monkfish is affectionately known as "poor man's lobster" because of the firm consistency of the fish, as well as the sweet rich flavor reminiscent of lobster meat.
It's consistency also makes monkfish ideal for cooking in a stew like this one, because the meat will cook through, but it won't flake apart like so many traditional white fish fillets would.
It's my favorite way to serve monkfish, especially in fall and winter. And it's an impressive, easy to assemble dish that's lovely for dinner parties along with a loaf of bread and a simple salad.
- If Buying Fresh Monkfish: When buying fresh monkfish, look for a clean and slightly sweet smell. Fresh monkfish should not have a strong fishy odor. The flesh should be firm to the touch and moist, with no signs of drying out or discoloration.
- Whole Fish or Fillets: You can buy monkfish whole or as fillets. Cleaning and filleting monkfish is a bit more complex than a traditional fish, as there is a membrane to remove. If possible, ask your fishmonger to clean and prepare the fish for cooking.
- If Buying Frozen Monkfish: In Portugal, I can find every form and fashion of monkfish at the fresh fish market, and in the freezer. For a stew like this, I most often choose frozen monkfish that has already been cleaned and cut into large chunks. Then thaw the monkfish in the refrigerator overnight and dry it very well before adding it to this easy recipe.
- Sustainable Sourcing: Check for sustainability certifications or ask your fishmonger about the source of the monkfish to ensure it's responsibly harvested.
Let's get to the stew!
Ingredients for Monkfish Stew:
Monkfish: monkfish brings the firm consistency of lobster and the similar taste of sweet buttery lobster tail (at a fraction of the price!) If you can't find monkfish, substitute a simple white fish like haddock or cod fillets, or go for large shrimp, instead.
Rice: grab your favorite short-grain rice for this dish. Carolino is the most common type here in Portugal, but arborio is a great option, as well. These short, creamy grains give the stew the perfect texture.
Veggies: cherry tomatoes, red and green bell pepper, onion and fresh garlic round out our fresh veggie choir. I use cherry tomatoes because they are reliably sweet and delicious year round, but use any tomato you have. I really recommend slicing your fresh garlic cloves for this dish. It keeps the garlic flavor mild but present in each bite.
Spices: smoked paprika, salt, pepper, chili flakes and bay leaf give us all the flavor-enhancement this cozy dish requires. If you're sensitive to spice, reduce or omit the chili flakes.
White wine: any sort of dry white wine will do. If you prefer to cook without alcohol, substitute extra stock and a tablespoon lemon juice into the stew.
Lemon: lemon zest adds fresh flavor to the dish, and then we serve our stew with lemon wedges for a hit of fresh lemon juice right before eating.
Cilantro: fresh cilantro is the flavor finisher for this recipe. combined with the smoked paprika, garlic and lemon juice, it gives the stew its true Portuguese flavor profile.
Step by step instructions:
To begin, dry monkfish pieces well with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter. Once melted, add diced onion, green and red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and sliced garlic cloves. Sauté for 3 minutes, until veggies are fragrant and beginning to soften.
2. Add smoked paprika, salt, pepper, chili flakes and bay leaf and toss for another minute.
3. Add rice and toss in the oil and veggie mixture, coating each grain.
4. Add white wine and raise heat to medium high, cooking for about 2 minutes until most of the wine has absorbed.
5. Finally, add 2 ½ cups of seafood stock. Once the liquid has come up to a rolling boil, cover and reduce heat to a low simmer for 20 minutes.
6. After 20 minutes, add final cup of stock, lemon zest and seasoned fish pieces to the pot of seasoned rice.
7. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Test the fish for doneness. Monkfish is firm, but when the fish flakes easily and is opaque, you know it's ready. Add cilantro and stir gently.
8. Serve with lemon slices or lemon wedges, crusty bread and hot sauce.
FAQ's and Serving Suggestions:
While monkfish is the traditional choice for this dish, you can certainly experiment with other types of firm-fleshed fish like cod or haddock. However, keep in mind that the flavor and texture will vary depending on the fish you choose.
Serve the stew with slices of crusty bread or baguette to soak up the flavorful broth. Fresh lemon wedges and a bottle of hot sauce also let your guests customize their own bowl. A simple tossed salad is a great way to round out the meal.
Yes, you can make monkfish stew in advance. In fact, many stews taste even better the next day as the flavors have had time to meld. Simply store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and when reheating, add a bit of extra broth or water to maintain the desired consistency.
Yes, you can create a vegetarian or vegan version of this stew by using plant-based ingredients like vegetable broth, olive oil and substituting monkfish with tofu, tempeh, or plant-based seafood alternatives. You can still include a variety of vegetables and seasonings to create a flavorful and satisfying dish.