Foie gras of the sea - Monkfish liver terrines

Monkfish liver is a renowned delicacy, adored both in Japan and France. This dish is for real fish lovers. It has a smooth, creamy texture with a rich flavor. In the japanese restaurants it is known as "ankimo." The liver is brined in soy sauce and them steamed, set out to rest and served with ponzu and scallions.

In France it is served as an appetizer on toast with lemon. Mostly you can find it amongst the cans of sardines at the supermarket. An inexpensive curousity. However, in Brittany you can find it fresh at your fishmonger and of course at the Marché des Lices. Monkfish liver is a fraction of the price of goose or duck foie gras. It is a great start to a seafood dinner or just for snacking. Plus, it's better for you than the meaty version, as it's filled with Omega 3 and B vitamins.

Monkfish is a pretty intimidating looking fish when you see it whole, with its huge head and mouth bristling with spiky teeth. Though most of the time you'll find just tails and when in luck, its liver. It is also known as Anglerfish and lives on the sea floor lying in wait for unsuspecting fish  to gobble up. Ten years ago it was considered overfished but stocks are back up today due to preservation efforts. 

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This preparation is super simple and you can make way ahead of dinner. It keeps for a couple of days in the frig. We bought about 1 1/2 pound (700 grams) of liver and we got two nice 1 cup (250 ml) terrines out of the amount. We decided to do one with a traditional lemon juice preparation and the other with Pineau de Charentes, an old school sweet fortified wine made with Cognac eau de vie.

We liked both recipes, but I thought the one marinated in Pineau was more subtle and sweeter. Plus, as you use only a small amount of wine for the recipe, you get plenty left to drink it at the aperitif with your toasts.

And each time I drink it, I am reminded of my late grand-mother Marguerite - we called her Mamie - who encouraged me and my sister Jeanne to indulge in a finger of Pineau each time we visited her as teenagers, in Souillac, in the Southwest of France. Marc remembers vividly the first time he had this drink with tiny grey shrimp at a café in La Rochelle, a beautiful port city on the Atlantic just south of Brittany. Sweet memories. We always have a bottle in the fridge, as it keeps very well once opened.

*A note on the terrines we used for this recipe. We received a set of for Le Creuset ceramic small “cocottes” as a gift from my sister. They have turned out to be fabulous for many different preparations, as they make a perfect individual portion of 8oz. You can find them on the Le Creuset website or here

Lemon or Pineau de Charentes Monkfish Liver Terrines

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Ingredients

  • 1 lbs monkfish liver -  0.5 lb for each version
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup Pineau des Charentes (you can find wine merchants that sell it online here, from $11 to $21)

or

  • 3 slices of lemon + 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
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Instructions

  1. Remove the veins (red strips) from the liver and rinse it. Pat it dry

Pineau des Charentes version

  1. Marinate liver 30 minutes in the Pineau de Charentes, with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  2. Remove liver from marinades and discard liquid
  3. Coat the cocottes with a neutral oil 
  4. Preheat oven to 250 F.
  5. Pack the livers tightly into each terrine adding a little salt and pepper as you go. 
  6. Add 1 Tbsp of fresh Pineau 
  7. Put the cocottes in a shallow baking dish, add 1,5 inch of water or about 3/4 of the way up the side. This technique is called "bain-marie" 
  8. Cook for I hour
  9. Uncover and put under the grill for 5 min to get a nice golden finish
  10. Set aside in the frige until cool and serve with country bread toast 

 

Lemon Thyme version

  1.  marinate the liver 10 minutes in the lemon juice, with a pinch of salt and pepper
  2. Remove liver from marinades and discard liquid
  3. Coat the cocottes with a neutral oil 
  4. Preheat oven to 250 F.
  5. Pack the livers tightly into each terrine adding a little salt and pepper as you go.
  6. Pack sprigs of thyme between the lobes and add on lemon slice on each side of the liver
  7. Add tbsp of fresh lemon juice.
  8. Put the cocottes in a shallow baking dish, add 1,5 inch of water or about 3/4 of the way up the side. This technique is called "bain-marie" 
  9. Cook for I hour
  10. Uncover and put under the grill  for 5 min to get a nice golden finish
  11. Set aside in the frige until cool and serve with country bread toast