Grilling with a grill - Monkfish with bay leaves

Bay-Grilled Monkfish

Grilling without a grill. How can that be possible?

It’s simple, because everyone loves the flavor of grilled foods, but we don’t all have the luxury of a back courtyard or a porch, a front garden or even a side alleyway where a grill can sit year-round. So, the following recipe for Bay Grilled Monkfish is for grilling without a grill.  For those of you who don’t have the luxury of space, but still want the flavor of home-grilled food try this, and you’ll get that wonderful sweet and smoky flavor without a grill.

This specific recipe centers around monkfish (Lophius piscatorius), what the French call lotte, or baudroie. It’s in season now, displayed with pride by fish mongers throughout the land. I had it recently at Table restaurant in Paris, where magician and chef Bruno Verjus prepared it on the stove – I watched him, I swear I did. But when I tasted it I closed my eyes and thought I’d been transported to a place with an outdoor grill burning the finest, most fragrant wood. His secret? Seared fresh bay leaves.

HAVE YOU EVER ATTENDED A COOKING CLASS?  WE’D LOVE TO SEE YOU AT A CLASS AT ON RUE TATIN IN LOUVIERS BUT IF YOU CAN’T MAKE IT TO FRANCE, JOIN US AT ONE OF OUR CLASSES IN THE U.S.  THIS FALL WE’LL BE IN ASHEVILLE AND LOS ANGELES

Flames will Leap; Smoke will Fly

I recommend this method, which is very easy. It’s also a little intimidating because when you get the oil hot and shake the pan with the bay leaves and fish in it, the leaves will catch fire and flames will leap. Don’t worry, keep shaking the pan and the flames will die down, then reignite, then die down again. Just put yourself in the persona of a famous French chef; they love to light things on fire, it’s called “flambé” and it’s been done since the beginning of time.

Get your hands on some fresh bay leaves, (Laurus nobilis), though you can use dry bay leaves, but their flavor won’t be quite as aromatic, so I recommend using about 10 of them. FYI – bay leaves grow in most climates. If you have a cold winter, the plant will need to come inside then. Otherwise, you cannot kill a bay bush/tree with a stick.

In any case, try this recipe for grilling without a grill. And once you’ve done monkfish this way you can try chicken breast, pork or lamb chops…your imagination is the limit.

*I sent this recipe to a friend to test in the U.S. and his comments were terrific. Among them “This is messy.” It is kind of messy, but lots of things are messier (he agreed!).  Still, the oil spatters a bit, leaving tiny dots on your stove top. You know the secret to cleaning up oil in the kitchen, though, correct? It’s white vinegar. Use it instead of water, and your stove will never have looked so good.

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BAY-GRILLED MONKFISH - LOTTE GRILLE AU LAURIER
This recipe for bay-grilled monkfish involves fire and smoke, yet it’s done on your stove and it will not make your smoke detector whine (at least it didn’t mine). It’s an indoor grilling recipe, but your guests will be convinced that you somehow hung from the balcony with a grill and produced this amazing fish. I include it here precisely for those of you who have neither garden nor balcony but love the smoky grilled taste of foods. Try this, and your “grill envy” will disappear. ASTUCE: monkfish has an outer and an inner skin. Usually the fish monger trims away the grey outer skin, but not always the inner skin which is very fine, almost more of a membrane. If this is still on the fish, simply trim it away, using a very sharp, preferably flexible bladed like a fish fillet knife, otherwise the membrane will shrink during cooking and your fish will be pulled every which way, into unrecognizable shapes. When searing the bay leaves, do take care that there is nothing flammable near your stove, that your hair is tied back and that you stand a good length away from the pan, tending to things in it with a pair of tongs, preferably extra-long. You may also want to put on a fan above the stove if you’ve got one. Once the fish is cooked, remember to let it sit for at least 5 minutes once you’ve taken it from the pan, to allow it’s juices to emerge. Lift it from the plate with a perforated spatula when you serve it, to leave the juices behind. Special Equipment: Lightweight (such as a non-stick) skillet, tongs, perforated spatula for lifting fish from one plate to another, one plate or platter to receive the fish from the pan, which you won’t use for serving the fish.
BAY-GRILLED MONKFISH - LOTTE GRILLE AU LAURIER
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Servings
servings
Ingredients
BAY-GRILLED MONKFISH - LOTTE GRILLE AU LAURIER
Instructions
  1. Trim the membrane from the monkfish if necessary. Rinse and pat it dry, and refrigerate.
  2. Place 1 tablespoon of each of the oils in a skillet over medium-high heat. Place one bay leaf in the pan and when it begins to sizzle, add the branch or remaining bay leaves to the pan and cook them until they begin to blacken and smoke, which will take 3 to 4 minutes.
    Place 1 tablespoon of each of the oils in a skillet over medium-high heat. Place one bay leaf in the pan and when it begins to sizzle, add the branch or remaining bay leaves to the pan and cook them until they begin to blacken and smoke, which will take 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Using the tongs, place the monkfish in the pan, gently nudging the bay leaves to the side. Shake the pan so that the bay leaves catch fire. Continue to shake the pan gently, and turn the fish, as the bay leaves go out and re-light, for about 2 minutes, then place a lid on the pan and remove it from the heat. Let it sit without looking at it for 8 minutes. If the monkfish isn’t cooked after 8 minutes, let it cook for an additional 2 minutes, then transfer it to a plate, season it with salt and pepper, and let it sit for 5 minutes. The monkfish will be golden on one side.
    Using the tongs, place the monkfish in the pan, gently nudging the bay leaves to the side. Shake the pan so that the bay leaves catch fire. Continue to shake the pan gently, and turn the fish, as the bay leaves go out and re-light, for about 2 minutes, then place a lid on the pan and remove it from the heat. Let it sit without looking at it for 8 minutes. If the monkfish isn’t cooked after 8 minutes, let it cook for an additional 2 minutes, then transfer it to a plate, season it with salt and pepper, and let it sit for 5 minutes. The monkfish will be golden on one side.
  4. To serve, using a perforated spatula or the tongs, transfer each piece of monkfish, golden side up, to the center of each of six warmed plates. Garnish with the additional bay leaves or herbs.
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2 Responses to Grilling without a Grill

  1. Cathy says:

    What a clever idea. I would love to put bay leaves on the grill as well. Double win.

    • Susan says:

      Cathy – double win. But imagine there is no patio, no grill. You could pretend, doing this one in the kitchen!

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