The third in our series on SASSI-friendly seafood, the humble childhood favourite gets an update with a cheeky nod to the American-style lobster mac n’ cheese – except made with deliciously sustainable monkfish.
Also known as poor man’s crayfish, the monkfish isn’t much to look at. What with its froglike appearance and gaping mouth ringed with sharp teeth, this denizen of the deep is often overlooked in favour of flashier fish. But what it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in flavour. The monkfish’s fleshy consistency is almost identical in texture and taste to that of the endangered West Coast Rock Lobster, making it the ideal alternative in crayfish-based dishes like bisque, crayfish cocktail or a lobster curry. Here we’ve replaced the crayfish with monkfish to recreate the classic comfort food of lobster mac n’ cheese. Because monkfish is so meaty, it can also hold it’s own against the strong flavours like Parmesan and pancetta.
To top off what is essentially a rather luxurious pasta bake, a simple pangrattato (seasoned breadcrumb topping) adds texture and crunch.
monkfish mac n’ cheese with pancetta and pangrattato
Prep time: 45 minutes / Cook time: 20 minutes / Serves: 6
800g of fresh (or frozen and defrosted) monkfish, about 2 tails
250ml dried macaroni or penne
15ml olive oil
50g pancetta, sliced into lardons
3 to 4 shallots, peeled and diced
1 100g wheel of Camembert
50g grated Parmesan
500ml fresh cream
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
A few fronds of fresh dill
Coarse ground sea salt and black pepper
For the pangrattato
100ml white breadcrumbs
50g grated Parmesan
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add in a glug of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking together. Cook the macaroni or penne until al dente. Drain and set aside. In a large pan set over medium heat, render the pancetta lardons until crispy then remove from the pan, place into a large mixing bowl and set aside. Fry the diced shallots in the pancetta fat until translucent, remove from the pan and add to the crispy pancetta. Using a sharp knife, remove the backbone from each monkfish tail, leaving two fillets. Slice each fillet into large cubes; rub with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fry the monkfish cubes over high heat for about 5 minutes to brown and seal them. Add the fish to the mixing bowl with the pancetta and shallots.
In a small saucepan, melt the Parmesan and Camembert cheese into the cream. Stir through the crushed garlic. Pour the cheese sauce into the mixing bowl along with the dill fronds and cooked macaroni and stir to combine. Season to taste before spooning the monkfish mixture into an over-proof dish.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. To make the pangrattato combine the breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan and crushed garlic and scatter over a baking sheet. Toast the mixture in the oven until browned and crispy. Spoon the pangrattato over the top of the monkfish mac n’ cheese and bake until the top of the dish is golden and bubbling.
Serve immediately with a green salad and a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.
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