Grilled Small Plates: Monkfish with Béarnaise Sauce

Monkfish is often called “poor man’s lobster” because of it’s mild taste and robust texture. My earliest memory of lobster was for my 7th birthday, celebrated while visiting my aunt and uncle in Milwaukee. They were truly great people who lived life in a much better and more interesting style than anyone else I knew growing up. They worked for the newspaper, didn’t have kids, had a summer house on a lake and a Dalmatian named Heathcliff. It would be years before I realized the literary reference.

KokyandBob were always mentioned together. As my sister pointed out in her memorial tribute to our Aunt Koky, their two names were always pronounced as one word. Ironic, considering that my aunt was one of the most independent women of the 20th century. She was the first woman ever to appear on the masthead of the Chicago Tribune. She created 17 sections for that paper and was considered a trail blazer in the “Sectional Revolution”. Bob was also a powerhouse in the newspaper business, running city desks at three of the midwest’s finest papers. Their love and partnership never waned. They were a great testimony to couples that are fiercely independent while being completely committed to one another. The lesson learned is that the two admirable traits are not mutually exclusive. I grew up with this lesson and embody it today in my relationship with my fiercely independent wife.

Admittedly, the whole reason for eating lobster or anything resembling it is for the melted butter. This recipe continues the small plates party with a bite of very richly sauced monkfish.


  • 2 Monkfish Tails
  • 1 Stick Butter
  • 3 Egg Yolks
  • 1/4 Cup White Wine
  • 1/4 Cup White Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Green Onions, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Tarragon, finely chopped + a few sprigs reserved
  • Lemon
  • Salt and Pepper


  • Mixing Bowl
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Sauce Pan
  • Whisk
  • Grill
  1. Liberally salt the fish, squeeze a little lemon and let sit for 30 minutes or more.
  2. In a sauce pan, reduce the vinegar and wine with the tarragon and onions  to a few tablespoons.
  3. Turn the heat down and begin to melt the butter.
  4. In a bowl, separate three egg yolks.
  5. Remove about a teaspoon of the melted butter just as it melts. You don’t want it to be hot.
  6. Whisk the slightly cooled, melted butter into the egg yolks.
  7. Turn the heat to low simmer and slowly beat in the eggs.
  8. Salt and pepper.
  9. Pat dry the monkfish, removing most of the salt.
  10. Grill for 5-6 minutes on each side. You want it cooked thoroughly. 
  11. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  12. Slice in rounds, placing one per plate, add a dollop of sauce and a leaf of tarragon.

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