Monkfish Braciola (Involtino di Pesce)


(photo: courtesy of JS, completed monkfish braciola)

One of our favorite TV food personalities is Jacques Pépin.   We enjoy and appreciate Jacques’ culinary skills, love for European cuisine, and on-air modesty.  In fact, beyond the great cooks in our family, Jacques Pépin is the cook we’ve often tried to emulate (although our cuisine is firmly situated in the Italian tradition).

The follow recipe is a modification on Pépin’s monkfish roulade as prepared by our beloved mother-in-law (whom we’d like to credit for the photos as well).  Moreover, one of our astute readers, Anna, points out that the dish below is more involtino di pesce than braciola because it includes fish and stuffing (and moreover that “braciola” refers only to slices of meat or fettine).  Regardless of how you label the dish the following method is excellent when using monkfish, which benefits greatly from a slow braise.
For the Stuffing
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large piece of monkfish fillet (give or take 1 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 10 ounces broccoli rabe
  • 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 4 ounces of stock mushrooms, chopped finely
For the sauce
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1-2 ripe tomatoes (7 ounces total), peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (1 cup).  You can also use canned whole tomatoes from Italy and they are probably a better choice during the winter months.
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

(photo: courtesy of JS, completed m
onkfish braciola being sliced.  note on slicing, we recommend you move the fish to a cutting board and then carve the fish so that you avoid dulling your knife prematurely)


For the stuffing
Peel the fibrous outer layer of skin from the stems of the broccoli rabe; remove the bottom stalks. Wash well and cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
Heat the oil in a large heavy pan. When the pan is adequately hot, add the garlic and sauté for 5 seconds, then add the broccoli, still wet from washing, along with the mushrooms and salt and pepper. Mix well and cook (covered) on medium heat for 5 minutes. The broccoli should be tender and the moisture gone from the pan. If any liquid remains, cook, uncovered, until the liquid has evaporated. Let cool to room temperature.
Place the monkfish fillet on the work surface and, using a long, thin, sharp knife held perpendicular to the fish and start from a long side, cut through it, stopping about 1 inch from the opposite side, so it can be opened like a book. Butterflying will create a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle about 7 inches by 9 inches. One side of the fillet will be whiter than the other; place it white side down on a work surface. Spread the cool stuffing mixture on top. Starting from a long side, roll up the monkfish to encase the filling and tie it securely with kitchen string. The finished roulade should be about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. (The roulade can be prepared up to 24 hours ahead, covered and refrigerated.)
Heat the oil and butter in a deep skillet. Sprinkle the roulade with the salt and brown it on the smooth (unseamed) side over high heat for about 1 minute. Turn the roulade over, cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the fish is tender when pierced with a fork. Transfer the roulade to a platter.
For the sauce
Add the wine to the drippings in the skillet and boil for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper and boil for another minute. Stir in the parsley.
To serve, remove the string from the monkfish and cut the roulade into 8 slices, each about 3/4 inch thick. Divide the sauce among four plates and arrange 2 slices of the roulade on top, and serve immediately.
Note: much of the preparation content has been adopted from Jacques Pépin’s original recipe.

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