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Friday, February 15, 2008

Lenten Friday cookalong, part 2

Monkfish Tail with Spinach and Mussel Curry

1 large monkfish tail (+/- 1lb.) cut into 2 fillets (you can use Maine or Florida lobster if you feel flush, or even Extra Large shrimp/prawns such as U-10s or 11-15s, duly peeled and all that...whatever is freshest within your budget will be fine)
1/2 lb. mussels, cleaned and beards removed (this is optional)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
5oz dry white wine (NOT cooking wine, I like Sauvignon Blanc)
1 carrot, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
1 small leek, ditto
1 rib celery, ditto
1 tsp Madras curry powder (I mix half hot and half regular)
1 fat pinch saffron threads
8 tsp regular curry powder and salt (about 50-50)
1/2 lb baby spinach (take out any overly tough stems...oh, and this will cook down to nothing)
5oz coconut milk or heavy cream (but try to avoid the ultra-pasteurized stuff if you can)
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped roughly
Peanut oil

Get your fishmonger to (or you can do it yourself if you feel daring) peel the membrane from the fish, otherwise it WILL get all gnarled during cooking. Cut each one in half. Heat a biggish saucepan over medium-high until hot, throw in your mussels with one of the sprigs of thyme, a bay leaf and the wine. Yes, it will hiss and sizzle and steam. Deal with it. Cover the pan immediately, give it a manly shake and cook for approximately 30 seconds JUST until all the mussels pop open.

Strain the mussels (you want to make sure you aren't leaving any grit) and reserve the juices. When they are no longer screaming hot, shuck the mussels; set aside. In a skillet over medium low heat, put in a dribble of peanut oil and when it starts to shimmer add your spices ( the 1 tsp of Madras curry powder, the saffron and remaining thyme) and stir for 20 seconds or so to "develop" their flavor. Add the vegetables and sauté (you don't want any caramelization) until soft. Add the strained mussel juice and reduce. If you skipped the mussel part, use any seafood stock you might have or 50-50 clam juice and water.

Season the monkfish with the curry salt. This is to dry out and firm up the monkfish. Wait for it to sweat (you'll end up with +/- 1 tbsp. of moisture) and then pat (do NOT rub off the seasoning!) the fillets dry. Put a skillet over medium-hot and sautee the fish in peanut oil until just golden brown on each side. Gently wilt the spinach leaves in a warm pan with dribble of peanut oil figuring 1-2 minutes. (You can also zap it in the microwave. All you want is a wilting.)

Add the coconut milk (Lite is OK) or cream to vegetables and bring it up to just a boil, then turn off. Add mussels (if you're using them). At the last nanosecond, add the cilantro (you can use less if you don't like it) and divide into warmed, shallow serving bowls (or deep plates).

Plop a bed of spinach on top of the mussel/vegetable curry, slice the fish fillets about 1" thick and arrange on top.

The only fussy bit, really, is the addition of the mussels and this can be easily left out. But I like it. The mussels can be made well ahead, and so can the curry bit, which also doubles or triples easily for other purposes. You can also JUST make the mussel curry, or JUST make the monkfish...each is delicious on its own; or if you are feeling posh, you can break this up into two separate courses.

You're welcome.



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