Monkfish doesn’t have many bones, just one large backbone. It has lean, firm flesh and a delicate taste that absorbs other flavours well.
It was once a very cheap fish that no one wanted. It is usually sold filleted, or at least headed and skinned.
Allow 1 x 200g (7 to 8 oz) piece of monkfish per person.
Place fish on its stomach. Cut the head off by cutting from fin to fin. Lay on its back, and cut the skin down to the tail. Pull the skin off. Use a knife to loosen and remove the membrane still around the tail. Cut a fillet off from one side of the backbone, then from the other side. Trim off any membrane remaining on the skin side. Trim as desired, and wash.
Even when bought skinned and beheaded, a Monkfish tail may have a muscular membrane on it. Peel that away. Tough looking fibre near where the bone was should also be removed, as well as any dark spots in the flesh (as they will cook up grainy).
Monkfish exudes a milky white fluid as it is cooking. This is fine if the fish is with other ingredients that the liquid will mix with, but on a grill, it can cause sticking, and doesn’t taste very nice congealed on its own. You can draw this out in advance by soaking the fish pieces in a brine for an hour first, then patting dry before using. The brine will also help the fish to brown more during cooking and to be flakier inside.
An 11 pound (5 kg) fish will yield 2 x 400g (just under a pound) fillets.
A tail weighing 4 pounds (1.75 kg) will weigh about half of that after being trimmed.
Only guesses exist as to why it’s called Monkfish — one theory holds that monks would be allowed to pick through the discarded catch of fishermen, and that fisherman didn’t want such an ugly fish. Another theory says that the brown fish looked like a monk’s robe flapping in the water.