Tagine of Monkfish Fillets with Fig Leaves, Fennel, ana Chestnuts

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

The following recipe is my adaptation of a dish my friend San Francisco-based chef Laurent Manrique created in my kitchen. I made one change in Laurent’s recipe in order to make it easier to prepare. In my version given below, I sauté the monkfish on top of the stove, then let it rest while I make a simple, flavorful sauce. Laurent, on the other hand, brought with him a very delicious and complex Bordelaise sauce, made with reduced white wine, port, chopped shallots, thyme, bay leaf, and veal demi-glace, and enriched with beef marrow.

When Laurent prepared this dish in my house, he used one of my earthenware Moroccan tagines for a stunning presentation. About 12 minutes before serving, he reheated the juicy slices of monkfish, glazed roasted chestnuts, and braised slices of fennel on a bed of fig leaves in the tagine. The fish reheated quickly, and the earthenware kept it warm until we were ready to eat.


  • 2 bulbs of fresh fennel (about 1 pound), trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • teaspoon sugar
  • 1 jar (12 ounces) steamed or roasted chestnuts
  • - pound monkfish fillet
  • Sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • ¼ cup white or tawny port
  • 2 cups well-reduced unsalted chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon dry fennel seeds
  • 6 to 12 unsprayed fig leaves, stemmed, washed, drained, and patted dry
  • 2 teaspoons fresh minced tarragon or dill


  1. Thickly slice the fennel bulbs and place in a large skillet with half the butter and a sprinkling of pepper and sugar. Set over medium heat, partially cover, and cook, turning, until golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes. Remove to a side dish. Add the chestnuts to the skillet and cook, uncovered, for a few more minutes to glaze. Cover loosely with foil and set aside.
  2. About 1 hour before serving, rinse and dry the monkfish fillets. Cut away the gray membrane and divide the fish into 4 even chunks. Season generously with salt and additional pepper. In a medium sauté pan set over moderately high heat, melt the remaining butter in 2 tablespoons olive oil. When hot, add half the monkfish and cook, without turning, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the fish over, reduce the heat to moderate, and continue frying for 5 more minutes. Transfer the monkfish to a side dish and cover with foil. Repeat with the remaining monkfish. Allow the monkfish to stand for at least 15 minutes to reabsorb the juices expressed during sautéing.
  3. Discard the fat in the pan. Pour in the vermouth or wine and the port and bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil until thick and syrupy. Add the reduced stock and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Strain into a bowl. There should be about ¾ cup flavorful sauce. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  4. Transfer the monkfish to a carving board, and cut into - inch-thick rounds. If the monkfish throws off liquid, add that to the sauce and boil down to reduce.
  5. Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a large tagine, cazuela, or other shallow baking dish. Place in a cold oven and turn the oven temperature to 425°F. Heat until the oil is sizzling, about 15 minutes.
  6. Carefully remove the heated dish from the oven and sprinkle the fennel seeds over the oil. Spread half the fig leaves on top, arrange the monkfish fillets overlapping on top of the leaves, and dribble about cup of the sauce over the fish. Scatter the fennel and chestnuts around the fish and cover with the remaining fig leaves and a lid or a sheet of foil. Return to the hot oven and bake 10 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through when the internal temperature reaches 145°F on an instant-read thermometer. Pull back the fig leaves, scatter the fresh herbs on top, and serve hot, with the remaining sauce on the side.