Monkfish in saffron-sherry-almond sauce

Monkfish in saffron-sherry sauce and dried tomatoes is a dish inspired by a southern Spanish dish called Cazón en amarillo. Cazón is a small shark (school shark), a traditional dish from Andalusia, but since those are becoming hard to come by, I’ve exchange it for monkfish or as they call it in Spain “chicken of the sea”. The recipe is usually served with fried potato in a stew style terra cotta pot. My personal touch is the dried tomatoes, which give that dish some extra color and also a welcomed salty touch that contrast good the wheaty saffron flavor.saffronmonkpin

Monkfish in saffron-sherry-almond sauceThe base of the sauce is the most important part here, it’s a “tipico Spanish” base sauce, which is called sofrito. It consist mainly of softening a finely chopped onion, garlic in olive oil and reduce the juice of a grated tomato to a paste, then you add whatever liquid to it like; wine, broth, water,etc. this right there is the base of many of Spain’s best dishes. It takes some patience to wait for the liquid to evaporate, but it’s so rewarding. Especially, those days, where under 30 minutes recipes are considered the ultimate recipes… I believe to take your time will always give a more adequate result. No offense, I do understand the need for those under 30 minutes meals, with those job-family balancing lifestyles but once in a while to take the time to make a great sauce, or dish is worth the effort.

Saffron is a great spice, it colors your meal into this rich golden color and taste fantastic like no other spices. It can be quite a powerful spice and needs to be used in small amounts, cause it can become overwhelming, most recipe you’ll see with it contains no more than 1 pinch or max 2. A good saffron looks not dry, is vivid red and usually come in really small packs, some have yellow stigmas in them, which result in a slightly lower quality. No need to say, it’s terribly expensive to buy this spice, it’s the priciest of them all but to understand why it’s so costly check this video from Discovery.

Monkfish in saffron-sherry-almond sauce
This version is with asparagus instead of clams

One cooking tip about saffron would be to never boil it, if you add it to a meal, try not to boil it, simmering is fine but it will loose a lot of it’s flavor if you cook it too heavily. I, usually, let it 15 minutes into a warm bowl of water to release it’s flavor and color and add it toward the end of coccion. Also, keep your saffron in a dark, cool place if you want to preserve it longer.

So let’s make those Andalusian flavors going!

Monkfish in a Saffron-Almond sauce and dried tomatoes

Makes 2 portions

  • 400g of Monkfish pieces
  • 100ml of warm water
  • 50ml of Sherry or white wine
  • 1 onion cut into fine dices
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 tomato cut into 2
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 1 laurel leaf
  • 40g of almond powder (blend some skinless almond)
  • few clams 
  • 50ml of the clam juice leftover or fish stock
  • olive oil
  • dried tomatoes cut finely
  • salt and pepper
  1. Start by making the sofrito, add the finely chopped onion to a pan on medium-low heat and let the onion soften, become slightly colored into the olive oil (takes about 20-25 minutes)
  2. Add the pinch of saffron into the warm water and reserve
  3. When the onions are soften, add the garlic and cook an extra minute
  4. With a cheese grater, grate the inside of each half of tomato until the skin, add the juice directly into the onion
  5. Let the tomato water evaporate completely, about 5-10 minutes
  6. Deglaze by adding the sherry or wine
  7. Add the laurel leaf and the water that contains the saffron, let simmer for a 5 minutes
  8. In a separate pot, cook the clams into a bit of water or wine, olive oil and thyme *extra and cover to let them open up
  9. When the clams are open, reserve them and add 50 ml of the clam juice to the simmering saffron sauce.
  10. In a mortar or blender make powder out of skinless almonds (this will thickens the sauce) and add to the saffron sauce about 30g and reserve the rest
  11. Take the laurel leaf out
  12. Blend the saffron sauce
  13. Pass through a sieve to make it smooth (push with a spoon down to get every last drops of juice)
  14. Reserve the saffron sauce
  15. Add salt and pepper to the pieces of Monkfish
  16. In a hot pan, add olive oil
  17. Cook in the pan medium-high heat the monkfish, depending how thick the pieces are, about 5 to 10 minutes until cooked through (if thick pieces, you can add a little clam juice, helps the fish to cook through)
  18. Serve with rice, clams, the finely chopped dried tomatoes and a touch of the almond powder.


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Monkfish in Brandy Sauce

This dish is terribly simple to make, and oh so delicious! This is a dish from my adoptive land: Spain. It’s called “Rape con Salsa Costa Brava” which means Monkfish with Costa Brava Sauce. Costa Brava is the northern Mediterranean coast line between Barcelona and France. Where the Famous #1 “El Bulli”restaurant is… or was should I say… In other words, a quite special place!monkfish

Last weekend, I was actually on the Costa Brava for the birthday of my step brother, living it up by a calm and clear water creek of Joncols, at the end of the Cap Creus, right next where Salvador Dali is from. We went on a kayak tour and ended up on a big rock by the sea to check out the view… when I saw… the famous “Fonoll de Mar” or Sea Fennel in the cracks of the rocks. I took a few leaves with me, brought them back home, wash them up and then pickled them in cider vinegar and salt, for 2 days. The sea fennel grow particularly well around the mediterranean coast, may month is the prime time for it. This is the green sided herb you see in the picture, I thought it would complement my Costa Brava Sauce perfectly.

Monkfish in Brandy SauceThe Costa Brava Sauce is mainly fish stock, garlic, tomato purée and brandy. The Monkfish is called the “chicken of the sea” here, because it has a fairly similar texture to chicken and also it doesn’t have the usual form of a fish with all the bones, it has 1 main back bone, so it make it easy to devour. It’ s a quite popular fish in Spain, most of the time you’ll simply find it grilled with a splash of olive oil and parsley.

So let’s make that delicious Monkfish in Brandy sauce!

Monkfish in Brandy Sauce

Makes 4 portions

  • 800g of Monkfish (200g each)
  • 250ml fish stock
  • 80ml brandy 
  • 350g tomato paste
  • 2-3 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 green onion finely diced cuts
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp of estragon
  • 1 tsp of sugar free dark chocolate or 1 tbsp of cornstarch (mixed into cold liquid first)
  • salt and pepper
  • Extra, a few big prawns or shrimps

Bring the oven to 180°C (350F)

  1. Wash you fish, take of the skin, dry up and salt, pepper it.
  2. In a large pan, medium high heat, cook the monkfish in the olive oil until lightly colored on each side
  3. Reserve the monkfish in a oven resistant pot, which is deep enough
  4. Add the finely diced onion, garlic and brandy (be careful) to the pan, let flame the brandy a minute or two
  5. Add the fish stock, tomato fried paste (tomate frito), or simply tomato paste, estragon and let reduce the sauce for 10 minutes
  6. Pass the sauce through a sieve to make it smooth and uniform *optional
  7. Add the sauce to the fish and cook for 15 minutes in the oven at 180°C (350F)
  8. Fry in a pan prawns or a few shrimps to accompany the dish, 1-2 minutes on each side, season with salt and paprika (pimenton picante)

Serve on an olive oil mashed potato bed. Enjoy!