« October 2006 Table of Contents
Product Spotlight - Monkfish
With traditional whitefish in short supply, monk found
favor with seafood chefs
By Linda Skinner
October 01, 2006
There's a good reason whole monkfish don't appear in the
seafood display case. Lophius americanus is a repugnant animal
with a huge head, tiny eyes and an enormous mouth full of
needle-like teeth. A spiky protrusion twitches atop the fish's
head to lure prey into its grotesque mouth.
Also, monkfish seldom make it ashore whole, since the tail
and liver are the most marketable parts. The 1- to 4-pound
tails are usually sold as skinned fillets. Livers are exported
to Asia or Europe.
Primary U.S. harvesting areas
for monkfish, also called
goosefish, extend from the Maine-New Brunswick border to North
Carolina. The fish was traditionally a bycatch with little
commercial value, and U.S. landings were below 1 million pounds
into the 1970s. That all changed the next decade, when monkfish
became popular among U.S. chefs seeking alternatives to
dwindling supplies of traditional whitefish. As domestic demand
for the tails grew, an overseas market for livers and whole
fish further intensified fishing effort; about a third of the
U.S. harvest is exported.
In 1980, landings were at 3,192 metric tons; they more than
doubled, to nearly 7,000 metric tons, by 1987 and peaked 10
years later at 27,812. Under a management plan to prevent
overfishing for monkfish, the quota for the 2006 season, which
started May 1, is 11,404 metric tons, a sharp drop from 2004's
harvest of 21,178 metric tons.
In mid-September, at the Gloucester, Mass., fish auction,
large tails sold for $3.28 a pound and small tails at $2.59. At
the Portland, Maine, fish exchange, large and small tails were
priced at $3.82 and $2.90, respectively.
So far, demand hasn't outstripped the reduced supply,
reports Ted Testaverde, VP of operations and sales for the
Fresh Lobster Co. in Gloucester, Mass., which wholesales fresh
fish and live shellfish. The company also offers gourmet gift
baskets on its Web site, where a pound of fresh monk goes for
$15.25 a pound.
Fresh Lobster sells 500 to 750 pounds of fresh monkfish
fillets a week, supplied by the Gloucester auction.
Testaverde's monkfish customers are mainly upscale restaurants
and catering businesses. He notes that while monkfish has
become more popular in recent years, it's still a niche market
and more likely to appear as a fresh-fish special than as a
standing menu item.
A sample menu for McCormick & Schmick's Seafood
Restaurant includes Cape May, N.J., monkfish on its Fresh List.
Beyond India, a Eurasian bistro in Providence, R.I., menus
Sicilian monkfish "osso buco," plank-roasted, served over a
seasoned, grilled polenta cake and dressed with marinated
olives, fresh herbs and an asparagus salad toss for $15.50.
The SDLq Lightly Cooked" section of the dinner menu at Le
Bernardin in New York features Pan Roasted Monkfish with Confit
Peppers, Fiery "Patatas Bravas" and Chorizo-Albariño