Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Monkfish Liver aka fish offal

salted and posed in the early evening light

by Cookbad

I can already see from the look on your face that the idea of fish and liver don't make you think "me eat now!", like bacon does. I suppose for the most part, I would have skipped it too, but coming across this morsel was a 'perfect storm' kind of event.

1. I was in my local Japanese grocery store looking for something new. (I had bought insanely delicious pork belly there the week before).
2. My sister was in town and she knows how to cook anything very well.
3. I had just read that monkfish liver was in season.
4. At 4.50 USD it was cheap.

It looked very much like Foie gras, fatty, plump and light. I was also draw to the fact that some fish liver can kill you. Fugu - that fish that is reputed to kill those who have eaten it if prepared improperly - isn't the flesh that will do you ill, but the liver, ovaries and skin.

I also read The Serpent and the Rainbow by wonderful writer and ethnobotanist Wade Davis, who wrote in detail about the terrible things fish liver will do to you. One if which, is if not kill you, is turn you into a Zombie.

Anyway. . .
Ideally we should have cooked it the day we bought it, but. . . my sister and I had shared some questionable shrimp tempura for lunch and paid the price. We were off the fish, at least for the night.

My sister made it the next night as a little pre-dinner canape.
This is what she did:

1. Salted it.
2. Heated a cast iron pan and added a butter olive oil mixture (good for cooking pretty much anything) to almost a smoking point.
3. Seared the sucker on both sides.
4. Popped the pan and all in the oven at 350 to finish it up.

You finish it in the oven for a more even finish.
The hard part is telling when it is finished. My sister can tell by pressing on it. This is a trick that works with red meat as well. Basically, after it is seared (something you do to keep in all the natural juices), but before it has come to rare if you press on it it will be very springy, like pressing on a tight trampoline. When it is very rare, it will feel quite soft. Press all around the meat to feel that different spots have a different spring. This will be inevitable, as meats vary in thickness and density. If you were finishing your meat on a grill, you'd move it around more or less constantly for an even doneness.

As it cooks, it will become less soft signaling rare and so on, until it returns to it's original state of trampoline texture, signaling that it is well done. Depending on what you want for a finish, take it off the heat at any point in between.
beautifully and perfectly cooked.

My sister paid good money at a serious cooking school to get this skill down and refined it at more than one nice restaurant. Nonetheless, it is a great skill to practice and get down pat. And skillz (especially those related to meat + flame) make you look cool, so try it, a few times before just cutting into whatever you are cooking to check.

Back to the liver.

So it is done, rare, save for a couple of thin spots. We slice it up, slightly too thick and try it out.
cross section

Tasty, fishy, rich. A bit lobstery. Monkfish is sometimes called the poor man's lobster so this follows suit. My sister's 10 month old ate it. My Mother in law wasn't into it, my daughter wouldn't even look in it's direction.

The rest of us thought it was nice. We ate it standing up in the kitchen discussing it's pros and cons. Sadly, we had a crap baguette to eat it on, which was really the only bad part. I found my hunk of liver delicious on the so-so bread with a chunk of cold salted butter.

All around, something I would do again, but next time with better bread.



Ignore my slightly dirty thumbnail. I'm too lazy to photoshop it out.

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