Ugly as a Monkfish’s Uncle

If monkfish can teach you one thing, it’s “don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” There are hardly any foods in the world that are this ugly:

But monkfish isn’t simply ugly, it’s also hands-down the best fish to use in a stew, assuming you can get over the look long enough to cook it. That was easy for me—I found it’s ugliness rather intriguing, actually, and the monkfish I had this weekend was fresh, clean, and about one day off the boat—caught from local fishermen and bought at the farmer’s market.

As soon as I saw the vendor was selling monkfish, I knew I had to make a fish stew. Snagging some mussels and clams, I moved on to the other stands and bought some of the most delicate, flavorfully-bitter arugula I’ve ever tasted.

I went straight to Anne Willan’s The Country Cooking of France cookbook (my favorite new book) once I got home, knowing it would have some great fish stew recipes. To my delight, one of the recipes is for Cotriade Bretonne, a fish stew with sorrel and leek. It calls for a rich fish (monkfish), a white fish (I had some hake in the fridge), and mussels. I could easily substitute the arugula for sorrel and why not throw some clams in there! A perfect combination.

The resulting soup was perfect in more than just the ease it took me to procure the ingredients—it was flavorful yet balanced, creamy yet light, with a hint of bitterness from the arugula. The mussels and clams were a fun addition for a Saturday night (we spent hours eating and plucking the meat from the shells, which were filled up with all the leeky, arugula goodness) but you could easily omit both bivalves and make this soup in no-time on a weeknight. I’ll certainly be doing so often.

Cotriade Bretonne

Fish Stew with Arugula and Leek

adapted from The Country Cooking of France, by Anne Willan

serves 6

  • 1/2 pound white fish, without skin
  • 1 pound rich fish, without skin
  • 1 1/2 pounds mussels
  • 1-2 dozen clams (optional)
  • 1 pound arugula (or sorrel), stems removed, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 leeks, white and green parts, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 quart fish stock
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 3/4 cup creme fraiche
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Wash and dry the fish, and cut into 2-inch pieces. Clean the mussels and clams and arugula. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the arugula, cover, and cook until the green wilt. Uncover and cook until all liquid had evaporated. Set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a soup pot. Add onions, leeks, and garlic and cook until they soften, 8-10 minutes. Add the stock, potatoes, bouquet garni, salt and pepper and simmer until the potatoes are partially cooked, about 5 minutes.

Add the rich fish to the cooking liquid, immersing it in the liquid, and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the white fish and simmer until all fish are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Discard bouquet garni. Add the arugula and creme fraiche, mixing gently. Top with mussels and clams (if using) and simmer until they open, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve with baguette toasts.

17 thoughts on “Ugly as a Monkfish’s Uncle”

  1. Robin that looks so good. Hubby just asked me to make fish stew last night! Due to ingredient availability I will have to make some subs but this is good!

  2. Hi Robin…I made it! Those in Brettagne have some gfoodm rustic seafood dishes…unpretentious and Oh so good!

  3. That fish looks like my ex husband… but I bet it smells better!

    You are lucky to be able to find it. Where I live it’s next to impossible.

    I adore the recipe though and may try it with some substitutions.

  4. Seafood stew is one of my favorite dishes of all time! If it’s on the menu, you can guarantee I’ll order it. I’ve never made it, though, so I’ll have to give this a try!!

  5. Hi There

    I just stumbled upon your blog and think it is an excellent read for foodies and especially like the photos and design of the blog.I started off as a blogger myself and realise the importance of a good clean design like you have here. I have now bookmarked it for myself to read and have added you to our new list of “all the food blogs in the world” on which we have been compiling for the last month! Hopefully it will send you some traffic in the long run. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on food so keep up the good work and talk soon. Cheers

  6. My my Robin! This looks great.

    I have to wait for a moment or two b4 I have shellfish, but you can best believe I will try this recipe. I love a good monkfish,

    I am going deep sea fishing next month, so, providing I catch something, this would be a great recipe to utilize the sea creatures.

  7. Sounds amazing. I don’t cook often with seafood, but this sounds like a good way to integrate it into my routine a bit more. I’m definitely going to give this recipe a shot.

  8. I absolutely love monkfish – ugly, yes. nasty, no. this looks like an amazing fish stew. I love the idea of using cream instead of having a tomato-based stew. Yum.

  9. Madame, Monsieur,

    Keldelice est un jeune portail gastronomique en ligne qui a pour ambition de sortir d’ici la fin de l’année 2009 une encyclopédie du terroir gourmand. Cette encyclopédie sera entièrement libre et gratuite, comme le reste du contenu de notre site. Dans ce cadre nous souhaiterions utiliser la photo de l’un de vos produits en indiquant clairement votre site comme en étant la source. (cotriade)

    Si toutefois vous ne souhaitez pas que votre photo soit utilisée, n’hésitez pas à nous le signaler.


    Elsa C

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