Continuing with recipes from The Complete Robuchon, the next dish I made was a monkfish with garlic and fennel cream, which Robuchon called lotte à l’ail, crème de fenouil.
2 (10oz) monkfish fillets
5 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons plus 1/2 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons butter, chilled
10 sprigs thyme
1 large onion (cut into 1/4 inch rounds)
1 large fennel bulb (cut into 1/4 inch rounds)
1 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup crème fraîche
Since I would be baking the fish, I wanted to stuff it with garlic so the meat would come out properly flavored. In order to do this I had to boil the de-germed garlic for 10 minutes first. To remove the garlic germ you first cut the clove in half.
If you look in the center of the clove, there is a thin green stem. I placed my knife to that spot and cut it out to degerm the clove before boiling all the cloves.
Monkfish looks a bit like anglerfish, but despite its gruesome appearance is incredibly delicious. Its tail meat resembles that of a lobster and cooked properly, even tastes similarly. Shown below is a picture of the fillets I used.
I seasoned each fillet with 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 pinches of pepper. To stuff it with the garlic I made incisions in the fish by stabbing it with the point of my knife and stuffing the holes with the garlic until it looked like this.
Then, I melted the 3 tablespoons of butter in a pan and cooked it for 30 seconds on each side over low heat before adding thyme to the pan.
I placed it in the oven to bake for 8 minutes and took it out afterwards.
While this occurred, I chopped up the onions and fennel and cooked them in a pan with 1/2 tablespoon of melted butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 pinch of pepper.
After cooking for about 8 minutes (or until fennel was soft), I added the wine; cooked for 3 minutes and added the crème fraîche; then simmered for 5 minutes before blending the mixture and adding the last 2 teaspoons of butter. The pictures below are one before blending and one after.
Now that both the sauce and fish were done, I covered the fish with sauce and garnished with freshly ground pepper, fleur de sel, and thyme.
Just as the descriptions and appearance of the fish meat would suggest, it tasted like lobster, albeit thicker and more tender. It tasted savory and when I bit down, the fish would separate into large chunks, keeping a round shape even upon further mastication. Unlike most fish, it did not separate from the fillet in tiny strands, but rather large sinewy ones that resembled meat more than fish, much like a lobster. The knife went through the fish like butter and every bite was accompanied with the delicious fennel cream complemented by the subtle presence of garlic from inside the meat. In the sauce, the fennel stood at the forefront of the flavor, imbuing it with a savory nature that reminded me of parsnip soup and separating it from more mundane cream sauces. Both the crème fraîche and butter gave it a creamy consistency that was tempered by the sharpness of the wine. However, the crème fraîche played more of a role than just an expensive cream substitute. It gave the entire dish an almost cheesy richness, but only at the onset of taste, after which its presence diminished, unlike what a cheese would have done. I could see the sauce going very well with a seafood ravioli dish and because there was so much left over, I plan to do so in the future. As for the monkfish, it was delicious and fairly inexpensive for how good it tasted. This was not a particularly difficult or expensive recipe and I would recommend it for an everyday meal.