Fish meats pork

Monkfish, wrapped with prosciutto

This story starts several months ago when I was shopping through downtown Cologne. I came across a restaurant which was announcing some of its specialties on a large board in front of the entrance. I read something like “Monk fish, wrapped in prosciutto, served with olive tomato sauce and rosemary potatoes”. Sounds nice, I thought. I wasn’t hungry and I did not enter the restaurant. But this dish was something I had to keep in mind.

Few weeks later, I decided to duplicate this dish. Though “duplicate” might not be the right word for it. I had never eaten this dish in that restaurant, no, I had not even seen how it looks like. So it was more of a free interpretation of the words I had read.

This was also my first experience with the preparation of monkfish. Of course, I had eaten monkfish before, but I had never handled it in my own kitchen. But since I am not really afraid of trying something new, I invited some friends and went out to buy two monkfish tails.

Needless to say that I had never filleted a monkfish before. But why should that be difficult? I mean, the anatomy of a fish is rather simple. A long muscle strand on each side of the spine, that’s it. Particularly in monkfish which have no fine bones. I did not waste any time, I just took a knife and courageously cut alongside the spine, expecting to receive a clean fillet within just a few seconds. Well, it took a bit longer.

I was not expecting a complex system of fasciae, surrounding different muscle strands and merging into each other. My ambition was aroused. I am no surgeon (I am a physician), but I do know how to dissect tissues anatomically. By the way, this is something I can recommend for any other kind of meat, too. Respect anatomical borders. For example, when larding a lamb leg with garlic, do not simply penetrate the meat with a knife and stick the garlic into these holes. Instead, bluntly separate the muscle strands from each other and carefully slip garlic cloves into these natural gaps. Your meat will be just as aromatic, but it will lose less moisture. However, this is a different story.

Back to my monkfish. Of course, I got my four nicely cut monkfish fillets at the end of the day. It took some time. And I produced rather a lot of waste, discarding several smaller muscle tracts. But I had a lot of fun, just like a small kid discovering the world.

Fortunately, my interpretation of this monkfish prosciutto dish proved a success. So, I included it into my recipe collection and repeated it from time to time. Like today. And still, I really like it. The sweet and tender fish is surrounded by the crunchy and salty prosciutto. The potatoes are just as crispy and complement the meaty part with strong herby and roast flavors. The sauce brings acidity and contrasts with its soft mouthfeel.


Monkfish, wrapped in prosciutto, served with olive tomato sauce and rosemary potatoes

Serves 4:
14 garlic cloves
5 rosemary sprigs
100 ml olive oil
800 g potatoes
black pepper
8 tomatoes
200 g black olives
2 shallots
6-8 thin slices of prosciutto crudo
700 g monkfish fillet
100 ml tomato juice
1 bunch basil

Start with the rosemary potatoes. Preheat your oven to 220 °C. Smash 12 unpeeled garlic cloves with the back of your knife. Cut the rosemary sprigs into smaller pieces. Mix garlic, rosmary and 50 ml olive oil, and put aside for a few minutes.

In the meantime, peel the potatoes and cut into pieces. Dice or wedges, whatever you like. Spread them on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. I always use baking parchment so that the potatoes don’t stick to the sheet. Pour the prepared oil over the potatoes, including the garlic and rosemary pieces. Then bake everything for 30 minutes in the preheated oven. From time to time, you should toss and turn the potatoes so that they can brown evenly.

Now it is time to prepare the sauce. Plunch the tomatoes into boiling water for a few seconds, then immediately transfer them to ice water. Peel off the skin of the tomatoes with a small knife, cut the tomatoes in halves and sqeeze out the seeds. Then cut the tomatoes into stripes. On the photos, you can see that I used canned tomatoes today. It is quite impossible to find good aromatic tomatoes in November. Instead of using watery, tasteless crops, substitute them by decent canned tomatoes. I recommend San Marzano tomatoes from Italy.

The olives. I prefer a fruity and mild variety for this dish, such as Kalamata olives from Greece. In order to remove the stones, just smash the olives with the back of your knife or simply your fist. This is a lot of fun and afterwards, you can pull out the stones very easily. Then cut the olives into coarse pieces.

Finally, peel the shallots and the remaining 2 garlic cloves and dice them finely.

Spread the prosciutto on a piece of plastic foil which is large enough for the monkfish fillet. Then set the fish in the middle and season with pepper. Use the foil to wrap the prosciutto around the fish. Discard the foil.

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a teflon coated pan. Fry the fish from all sides over moderate heat, just until the prosciutto starts getting brown. Then put the wrapped fish on your baking rack. Lower your oven to 150 °C, pull in the fish (above the potatoes) and cook for 6-7 minutes.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a small pot. Add shallots and garlic, sauté over low heat until translucent. Add tomatoes and olives, sauté for just another minute. Add the tomato juice (this is not necessary with canned tomatoes), season with salt and pepper and bring to a brief boil. Remove from the heat. Cut the basil into thin stripes and stir into the sauce.

Cut the fish into medaillons and arrange with the potatoes and the sauce.


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