By Christopher Paone
I grew up coming to Ship Bottom for the summers; it’s been for the past twenty-five years. I have always loved the water and got into scuba diving about six years ago while I was at college in Florida. Currently, I mate on the Dina Dee II, docked in Barnegat Light, for Captains Gary and Dennis Smith. Recently, I took this 20-pound monkfish or sea devil by speargun while diving the wreck of the Gulf Trader. The wreck sits in ninety feet of water approximately eleven miles northeast of Barnegat Light.
Monkfish may not be pretty, but it tastes great! The fillets are firm, thick and light pink in color with the texture and sweet delicate taste of lobster.
To cook it, I went simple; pan fried in a cast iron skillet, seasoned with
salt, pepper, garlic, and paprika.
CAST IRON SKILLET-FRIED MONKFISH
Monkfish fillets with the exterior gray membrane removed
Two tablespoons unsalted butter
Two tablespoons coconut oil
Sea Salt or Pink Himalayan Salt
Fresh cracked pepper
One half of a small clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
Pat the fillets dry with a paper towel and season to taste with salt. Place a cast iron skillet over high heat. Add the coconut oil and one tablespoon of butter. Add the fillets to the hot pan and reduce the heat to medium high.
Cook on one side until golden brown, approximately five to seven minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets. Turn the fillets over and repeat the process. Note: Do not move the fillets around in the pan. This prevents it from browning nicely and may cause the fillets to break up.
When the fish is nicely browned, add the garlic and the rest of the butter and baste it over the fish. Finish with a squeeze of lemon.
Remove the fillets from the pan and allow them to rest for two minutes. Season with salt, fresh cracked pepper, and a dash of paprika. Monkfish pairs nicely with just about anything, I served it with sazon rice, fresh string beans, cherry tomatoes, and a few lemon wedges.