Monkie magic

Chef’s poached monkfish served with vegetable tagliatelle and a shellfish sauce

Bonjour Bretagne!

Monkfish today. No monkey brains in Brittany to my knowledge.

Lotte à l’Armorcaine is monkfish tail poached in a rich shellfish sauce and served with courgette, carrot and leek tagliatelle cooked à l’étuvée—in just a pinch of butter and a little water.

Monkfish was finicky to prepare. There are 2 membranes to remove beneath the skin. Care was needed to avoid cutting into the meat. Good fun. I like butchering, be it meat or fish.

The sauce started with shore crabs. Still nippy little blighters! I got my own back and nipped each one in half with a scissors. That created a bit of a pong. Crab poo? Everything went into a hot pan to cardinalise—shells go red. Added shallot, garlic and tomato paste and cooked out. Flambéed with brandy. Now the aromas were incredible. Forget the poo. Plum tomatoes. White wine. Bouquet Garni and a solitary shaving of orange peel. Lid on and gently simmered.

Poached monkfish in a shellfish sauce

The monkfish was carefully seared without colour, in olive oil. The sauce was passed twice at different stages and reduced by 70% before adding double cream and the seared monkfish for the final cook and glazing.

I didn’t cook the vegetables for long enough and I knew this when I plated up. I’m kicking myself because I had plenty of time to get it right. Chefs are encouraging us to rely on our senses and knowledge more, rather than follow cooking times. I need to start thinking on my feet more and listening to my instincts. I put too many vegetables on the plate and my fish could’ve done with a final glaze at plating. That’s a mistake I’ve made before so that’s dumb. Other than that, my fish and sauce were nicely cooked and I got my seasonings right. I’m really happy to be using seasonings consistently well to optimise ingredient flavours. I drop the ball on textures sometimes. Need to work on that.

I learned today that there is such a thing as having the plate too hot. Bugger. Not my best day in the kitchen but there’s always tomorrow.

Warm Brittany-style oysters

In demo, chef also prepared Huitre Chaudes à la Bretonne. Lovely warm rock oysters Brittany-style. So much more enjoyable than those earlier oysters. No discernible gloopy mass, just a mouthful of creamy textures and nice flavours.

A reduction was made with shallot, cider, Muscadet wine and juice from the oysters. Creme fraiche was then added. The oysters were blanched briefly to firm them up and laid back in their shells, covered with the creamy reduction, topped with breadcrumbs and then under the Salamander to gratinate. Served with blanched samphire.

Forgot my Tupperwares. Fear not. Monkie is coming home in a coarsely constructed cling film carrier with integrated ice cubes. I’m not convinced it won’t leak in my bag.