Monkfish for Tea

We are just about getting to the end of our freezer supplies, which coincides, quite neatly, with payday.
The Monkfish extracted from our freezer last night was saved as an end of the month treat, and last night seemed a good night to cook it. We had received notice from the courts that our case against the bank is proceeding as it should, and slightly swifter than we dared hoped. From this point on, all we do now is wait.
So, I felt that a tentative celebratory meal seemed in order. I have been itching to make Polenta for ages but have been unable to get hold of any decent cornmeal.
I finally managed to score some extra finely milled cornmeal (used for the Duckanoo, amongst other recipes) and some coarse organic so I decided to use a combination of the two and see what transpired.
I have only made Polenta one other time, it was an Quick Mix brand and the flavour was dreadful: bland, flabby and it stuck to the griddle when I tried to fry it. I have since learned that Polenta needs a lot of seasoning and that griddling it probably isn't a great idea.
It has taken me 2 or 3 years to get back with the Polenta plan but I am not a quitter, at least, not when it comes to cooking. Sure, I gave up a course in aromatherapy (but then, I was getting all sorts of glands mixed up with muscles during the physiology elements and that can't be a good thing) and photography (yes, I was good as the photography on this site doesn't attest to, but I couldn't afford it and there are only so many times you can photograph the same cornfields before you start exhibiting signs of a Diane Arbus type mania).
Anyway, after watching Ina Garton effortlessly arrange a dinner party for several friends, with Polenta as one of the side dishes, my mind was made up: Stuffed Monkfish with Fried Polenta and Spring Greens (it was a huge bag).
The Polenta needs to boiled up first and then poured into an oiled dish to cool before it can be fried. It firms up very quickly though, and becomes the texture of soft rubber. Ina's recommendation was to make it Monday, serve it on Friday. However, I wanted Polenta TONIGHT so I would have to exercise a little less restraint than usual (which is very little anyway). This did show when it came to the frying of these gorgeous yellow disks, because they started to stick slightly. So, a word of advice: always chill Polenta for at least several hours, and not just half an hour! Impatience issues aside, this was some great tasting Polenta. I seasoned it generously with lots of sea salt, freshly ground pepper, lots of butter, Parmesan and chopped Rosemary leaves. This complimented the Rosemary and Black Pepper coating that I liberally doused my Monkfish pieces in, and their stuffing of chargrilled peppers (from a jar this time, I'm afraid) and anchovies made this dish a delicious pseudo-Italian supper. The wonderful, iron-tinged Spring Greens bridged the gap perfectly between the creamy fish and the salty, cheesy Polenta, but any greens would do, broccoli, Savoy Cabbage, even an Arugula Salad.
If you want to recreate this "simple but attractive enough for guests" dish, here are the recipes:

For The Polenta:
1 Cup Cornmeal. I used a mixture of fine and
coarse, but whatever you have is fine
2 Cups Water
2 Cups Milk (I used skimmed, full fat would make it richer)
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Chopped Rosemary
Good Grating of Parmesan to taste
Salt and Pepper
Place the cornmeal, water, milk, rosemary, butter and oil in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. It will start to blip gently as it heats up and then volcanically as it gets really hot. You must keep stirring otherwise it will stick like nobodys' business to the pan and this is supposed to be a quick supper. Not one spent cleaning pans. If, like me, you have a natural aversion to things that spit hot, molten liquid at you (ahem), you may choose to wear an oven glove and long sleeves whilst carrying out this procedure.
Once it boils, turn the heat down to about medium, cover and leave for about 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Stir in the Parmesan.
Pour into a lightly oiled dish (I used an oval cast iron dish but anything at all will do) and leave to cool for about half an hour at room temperature then several more hours in the fridge.
When completely cold, cut into shapes using a cutter or just cut into wedges and fry in a little hot olive oil until crisp and golden on both sides. Here is where they need to be really cold. They will go mushy if not. I speak from experience.

For The Monkfish:
300g Monkfish
Some Chargrilled Peppers
Anchovies to taste
A few peppercorns, some sea salt
Tablespoon fresh Rosemary, chopped
Preheat Oven to 200c.
Firstly, make the rub. Using a Pestle and Mortar, smash up the salt, peppercorns and rosemary until the oils from the herbs start to smell aromatic.
To stuff the monkfish, cut down the fish, lengthwise, only about halfway. Then, slice to the left of the cut to make a flap, and then to the right. You should now have two flaps of monkfish that you can fold out to each side (in theory).
In the middle of these two flaps, place some of the chargrilled pepper and as many anchovies as you like (I only put one, Paul put two). Fold the flaps over the top of this stuffing and hold in place with cocktail sticks.
Drizzle the fish with some olive oil.
Sprinkle the rub onto a chopping board and roll the fish in this peppery rubble, making sure to coat it well.
Place on a baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes depending on size. Take care with this, because Monkfish can overcook very quickly.
Remove the toothpicks (which, as you can see from the picture, I failed to do) and serve with the fried Polenta and some rapidly boiled (or steamed) Spring Greens (or vegetable of your choice).
p.s. Whilst the picture indicates that we only had one crisp, disk of Polenta each, suffice to say this was just for photographic purposes only and we had quite a bit more to eat than this!
p.p.s. And if you're wondering what happened to the dregs of the polenta, the trimmings if you will, well...I smooshed them up into a ball, pressed them into a sandwich tin and fridged them until lunchtime today (and I have just fried it up, and am eating it as we speak..I mean, type!).


Lydia said...

Hooray for you for trying polenta again! Turns out it is very easy to make and extremely versatile. You have more patience than I -- for surely I would have served it at the soft, creamy stage, with that wonderful monkfish. I would never have been able to wait until it cooled so I could make it into disks!

valentinA said...

Good luck for your case freya! Keep fingers crossed!
Your polenta sounds great to eat with the monkfish, i shally try it soon:)
have a great week end!

Brilynn said...

I need to try making polenta again, I haven't had great success.

Kelly-Jane said...

I saw that Ina show too, she made the polenta look effortless! Your monkfish supper looks great.

Do you have enough polenta left over to try frying it from well chilled? I'd be interested to hear how you get on :)


wheresmymind said...

Still haven't gotten polenta to fry properly!

Meeta said...

First all the best of luck for your case Freya! And now to that meal. WOW! Monkfish and polenta. It sounds and looks yummylicious! I'll be getting back to you with a verdict soon!

Quellia said...

That looks scrumptious! And I'm sure it was a well deserved early celebration!

Joyce said...

You managed an Italian flavor and the flag colors as well. Nice!
Nice combination of flavors and textures.

Kathryn said...

I've only tried polenta once and it was a raging disaster. Can't remember why. This looks so good though - and I love monkfish.

Good luck with the case from me too!

Kathryn x

tigerfish said...

What a great meal! Wonder if I could get monkfish in my grocery store/supermarket over here...

Lis said...

I've never had monk fish and the one and only time I tried to make Polenta it was horrible (rubber in a pot) - but this dinner of yours has me salivating. I've always wanted to try monk fish, but I rarely see it around here.. next time I'm buying it! As for the polenta, I will try it again - and I'll go the fried route like you did. Thanks for sharing! =)