Monkfish, the Poor Man's Lobster
Monkfish isn’t winning any beauty contest as far as its appearance goes, but when it comes to versatility and sustainability, it’s right up there with the best of them. So, what is Monkfish? Monkfish is groundfish, meaning it swims and feeds along the bottom of the ocean. It’s known to some as "the poor man's lobster" because of its firm, sweet, and delicious taste similar to lobster tails, and to some as "all mouth", because most of the fish is taken up by the head and most of the head is mouth. Monkfish is a versatile, mild flavored, and sustainable protein option preferred by many chefs across the world. Monkfish stocks are healthy, meaning the species is not overfished, making them a great choice for customers and the fishery. When you purchase monkfish you are not only supporting healthy food systems, you are also having a direct positive impact on Maine fishermen and coastal communities. A portion of the sales from the monkfish we are selling will go to support food insecure Mainers through the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association’s Fishermen Feeding Mainers program.
The monkfish we’re offering was caught by a fisherman named Rob Tetrault, who fishes out of Portland on his boat F/V Robert Michael. Rob’s vessel is “small” at slightly over 40’, by comparison to many of the corporate owned fleets, like those highlighted in “Cod is Dead” in the Netflix original series “Rotten” (well worth watching). We are working hard, in collaboration with partners like the Island Institute, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association and Gulf of Maine Sashimi (who cut and processed this fish for us) to build the Maine fishing industry back up based on sustainable practices that support local fishermen, their families and their communities.
As far as fish go, it’s possible that monkfish is the ugliest ever to swim in the Atlantic. BUT it’s also delicious, sustainable, and was one of Julia Child’s most favorite fish. And really, who can argue with Julia on anything?! In 1980, with the launch of her latest cookbook Julia Child wrote, “Monkfish is a good resource in these days of inflation and scarcity. What you buy is thick, firm, snowy-white fillets, chunky things you halve or cut into steaks. Monkfish is a cook's delight because it's so adaptable; its firm texture suits it to dishes like bouillabaisse, and its mild flavor can be stepped up with marinades and sauce." Noted occasionally as being the “poor man’s lobster”. It’s a firm fish, usually cut as loins or medallions and is easy to prepare. Many things have changed since 1980, but not the quality of this fish!
In addition to Julia’s ringing endorsement, fun facts about monkfish abound. They travel by slowly swimming or by using the sturdy base of their pectoral fins to walk. They are described as being “tadpole-like in appearance, with a body that is mostly a broad head with a large mouth and a narrow, tapering body.” Or, put another way, UGLY. Regardless of their looks, they are tasty and not subject to any overfishing, which makes them a great sustainable protein option and more affordable lobster substitute. Not to mention, while it’s their tails that are eaten, their heads can be used as bait by lobster fishermen, so the entire fish is put to use.
So, from all of our partners and the fishermen we buy from, thank you! And from us to Julia, thank you for being a champion of this tasty but ugly fish! Buy monkfish, here.