Gabe the Fish Babe: For the of Love of Monkfish
By: Gabrielle Stommel, April 27, 2012
Gabe the Fish Babe - An inspired seafood blogger and a young fishmonger of fresh, day-boat New England species, this modern-day mermaid comes from a long line of seafaring Cape Codders. In this column, Gabe encourages readers to expand their minds and mouths to local, abundant, underutilized seafood - and hopes to bring awareness to a creature on the brink of extinction: the American commercial fisherman.
Unseasonably forceful winds along the New England coast this week are really stirring the pot. Gales are deterring fishermen from settin’ in and haulin’ back for now, but the ruckus beneath the surface is about to pay off.
Striped bass love a good storm party and they are making their way up the Atlantic shoreline straight towards the Cape, just in time for the soirée.
Striped bass are a highly regulated species. Rules surrounding the commercial fishing of striped bass are stricter than your 3rd grade teacher on a class field trip to the aquarium. Right now, the first of the season have decided to turn up in the traps off of Point Judith, Rhode Island. These trap-caught stripers are not a cheap date, but when they are really fresh they are worth it.
I once had a striped bass ceviche with macerated black cherries at Gotham Bar & Grill in NYC... Just thinking about it makes me drool all over the place. Which brings me to the next seasonal species to make me salivate: monkfish!
Monkeyin' around with monkfish
The horrifying monkfish might have a big ugly mug, but it is just delicious when cooked, wrapped in bacon. The inshore gill-netters of Southern New England, like Captain Dean Pasante of the F/V Oceana, bring in their monks in whole and gutted, but leave the stomach lining inside the fish. In places like Korea, eating the stomach lining, liver and head of monkfish is a true delicacy.
Last weekend I went gillnetting and the horrible, beastly monk bit me! But it was my own fault: Captain Terry of the F/V Tiger Jo told me not to put my finger in its mouth.
It all happened while I was banging the weird alien-looking monks over the head with a hammer and passing them along to another crewmember to be plucked from the net. Luckily, I knew enough not to pull my finger from its locked jaw full of pointy, inverted teeth. Peter, the first mate swiftly flipped the offending monk back onto its stomach, whacked it between the eyes and it released my thumb.
Monkfish used to be called junk fish, but not anymore! Thanks to Julia Child, monk is now cool to eat and be seen eating. The only ones who say you shouldn’t eat monk are misinformed loony tunes who believe having monk in your trunk isn’t sustainable.
I beg to differ: monkfish is a very strictly monitored species and the monk I buy is caught in gillnets that do not damage the marine habitat. Furthermore, according to NOAA's FishWatch, monkfish populations reached sustainable levels three years ago, thanks to a rebuilding effort begun in 2000.
Remember, eat plenty of spring monkfish this year and continue expanding your mind—and your mouth—with the glorious fishes abounding in our local waters.