If a man cannot or will not cook, he is not a man. All REAL men – manly men, if you will – know how to cook, and by cook I don’t mean scurry around a studio kitchen yelling “BAM!” and cooking stuff most ordinary chefs don’t cook, like that wretched little Emeril does on his stupid Food Network show. Honestly…what kind of serious chef has his own studio band, complete with an African-American Doc Severinsen? I learned to cook because my mother – God rest her soul – was a superb cook. When I moved out and lived on my own, I had no choice but to teach myself the arcane ways of the kitchen.
This is one of the best recipes for autumn and winter comfort food you will ever download. This recipe substitutes monkfish* for lobster and includes a lot of paprika, so as to lend a faint, pink, hue reminiscent of lobster bisque. The secret is to add the monkfish pieces at the very end, letting them poach to perfect doneness without overcooking. I recommend that you serve this delicious chowder with hot, crusty bread, a tossed salad of spring greens with a balsamic vinaigrette and chilled Chardonnay. This is a perfect meal for a cold, December night.
2 lbs fresh monkfish, cut into bite-size pieces
3 cups fish broth
4 tbsp butter
2 cups thinly sliced onions (white or Vidalia)
2 cups finely diced celery
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
2 cups Yukon gold potatoes, ½-inch cubed
2 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp paprika
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp dill (dry) or ½ tsp dill fresh
6 cups milk or half-and-half
½ cup sour cream
2 tbsp corn starch
½ cup shredded Swiss or Gruyere cheese
½ cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
On medium heat add butter, onions and celery into a 4-quart soup pot; cook gently until onions are translucent and celery is soft. Add garlic and wine and continue cooking for 5 minutes until alcohol evaporates. Add potatoes, cauliflower florets and water. Cook uncovered until potatoes are tender – add more water if necessary. Add salt, paprika, pepper and dill followed by milk or half-and- half. When mixture begins to boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Whisk cornstarch and sour cream into fish broth and add to the pot. Continue stirring until mixture is smooth. (Chowder should have the consistency of thin pancake batter: if too thick, add milk; if too thin, mix 2 tbsp cornstarch with ¼ cup milk and add a little at a time, stirring until desired consistency is achieved). Add cheese and stir until completely melted and incorporated.
Simmer on very low heat for 10 minutes; stir frequently. Fold monkfish pieces into the chowder. Cover the pot and let simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and adjust salt and pepper to taste before serving.
Ladle into shallow soup bowls and garnish with a sprig of fresh parsley or fresh dill.
*Because it has a flavor and texture that somewhat mimics lobster, monkfish is also known as “the poor man’s lobster” and has become so popular that market forces have, in many places, made it more expensive than lobster. Nevertheless, depending on the time of year, it will still be cheaper to use monkfish when you consider that a typical 1 lb. lobster will yield roughly 4 oz. of meat in late summer and roughly 8 oz. of meat in the middle of winter.
This means you will need to purchase 8 or 9 lobsters at the end of summer or 4 to 5 lobsters during the winter to secure 2 lbs. (32 oz) of lobster meat. Either way, unless it costs twice as much as lobster, monkfish is still the better bargain.