So, monkfish… Not the prettiest feller in the ocean, though I’m sure their comrades find them attractive. The thing to remember is, you don’t have to look at them! The meat you will find at your local fish market comes from the back, and is a long tenderloin. It’s a steak-like cut, similar to halibut, and won’t flake apart unless it’s overcooked. This is the perfect fish for a tagine, which is slowly simmered and will absorb the flavors it’s cooked with.
I think of Tagine as more of a winter dish, being a Moroccan stew, but this one using fresh fish is a super flavorful dinner option for summertime as well. Make your chermoula (an herb sauce made with cilantro, garlic and lemon – see below) earlier in the day, or even a day ahead so the flavors infuse nicely – and make sure there’s plenty of time for the fish to marinate. Serve this colorful dish over couscous, to sop up the wonderful broth.
The best way to make this dish and keep the integrity of all the different flavors is to use an actual tagine. (“Tagine” is the name of the two-piece conical cooking vessel as well as the dish that’s cooked in it.) However, if you don’t have one, you can make it in a Dutch oven. Some tagines will require a heat diffuser for use on a stovetop, and some tagines are made only for serving but not cooking, so make sure you have everything you need ahead of time.
For the Tagine
2# Fresh Monkfish filets, cut into 2” cubes
1 batch Chermoula (see below)
1/2 C Olive Oil
2 Medium Onions, sliced into ½“ thick rounds
1 Large Carrot, quartered lengthwise
1 Bell Pepper, sliced lengthwise (any color will do)
1 Large Zucchini or Summer Squash, quartered lengthwise
¾ C Preserved Lemon (you can buy or make these, but they take 3-4 weeks to make)
½ C Green Olives, pitted
½ C Water or light fish broth (you may need to add a little more as it simmers)
1½ C Cilantro (mostly leaves, but you can use some stems as they are very tender)
¾ C Parsley leaves
6 Medium – Large Cloves of Garlic
½ C Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp Paprika
2 tsp Ground Cumin
½ C Olive Oil
2 tsp Salt
Put all ingredients into a food processor together and pulse until fully pureed.
Make the Tagine
- About 1-2 hours before you need to start cooking, toss the fish in the chermoula and set aside at room temperature. (If it’s a particularly hot day, you can refrigerate it.)
- Put the olive oil in the bottom of the tagine and line with the sliced onions.
- Place the monkfish in a lump in the very middle of the onions, with all the chermoula.
- Place the cut vegetables around the fish, forming a tepee.
- Discard the insides of the preserved lemon, then rinse and julienne the skin. Sprinkle the preserved lemons and olives over everything. Pour the water or broth in at the side, so as not to wash the sauce off the fish.
- Cover and bring to a boil.
- Turn the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes – check to make sure there’s enough broth, but otherwise try not to lift the lid.
- After 45 minutes, the fish should be cooked. If not, continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes.
- Serve immediately, straight from the tagine, with couscous. Garnish with cilantro if desired.