What’s for Dinner? : Monkfish Liver

I happen to live a block from a market that has a butcher and a fishmonger that have all but ruined me for life.  The quality and variety of the fish and meat are nothing less than spectacular. And the presentation! Artful. Gorgeous. Fresh, fresh, fresh.  It’s practically pornographic (you know, if food is your thing).

On a recent trip I was non-committally perusing the fish counter checking to see what was new.  I spotted some exciting additions: shad roe! monkfish cheeks! Fun. Very fun, indeed. Then my eye happened upon this:

Monkfish Liver Raw Sized

Well, jeez.  That’s a bit…intimidating. But also intriguing.   And then I saw the sign and realized what it was: monkfish liver. Aka Ankimo- The Foie Gras of the Sea. Aces!  Now I had a fun new cooking project : )

I had never worked with monkfish liver before but I have certainly cooked lots of other types of livers (chicken, calf, rabbit, etc) and played around with a host of different preparations from the very rustic chopped liver (extra schmaltz, please!) to the fancy-pants foie gras.  Let’s just say I am pretty well versed in the liver-arts.

Monkfish liver is considered a true delicacy in Japan where it is most traditionally soaked in sake and then steamed.  That said, what follows is a play on two classic French foie gras preparations hot (seared) and cold (torchon).  I thought it would be fun to really play up the idea of monkfish liver being “the foie gras of the sea.” The hot preparation is quick and simple and can easily be recreated by a novice. The cold preparation takes a bit more expertise or a good amount of confidence.


Brining the Monkfish- both the hot and cold preparations begin with a milk brine.

1 monkfish liver (mine was about 1 lb)

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon salt

1. Remove outer veins of monkfish liver and rinse under cool running water.  You can use a tweezer, but I used a knife and my hands. They are fairly easy to remove.

2. Combine milk and salt. Soak liver in milk brine for two hours in fridge.  The milk will make the liver a bit less fishy tasting and the salt will firm up the proteins, making for a better texture.

3.Remove liver from milk brine and cut liver in two equal pieces. Store in fridge if not cooking immediately.



yield: 3-4 appetizer portions (using 1/2 of 1 lb liver)

special equipment: sous vide circulator


1/2 lb monkfish liver, milk brined

2 cups Savoy cabbage, finely shredded

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup fish stock, reduced to 1/4 cup

1 tablespoon manzanilla sherry

salt, to taste


1.Heat water bath for sous vide cooking to 150 degrees fahrenheit.

2.Roll- place liver near the bottom edge of a large piece of plastic wrap.  Starting closest to you and working away from you, roll liver in plastic wrap as many times as you can. Twist one end of plastic wrap and tie tightly. Twist the other end as tightly as possible taking care to squeeze out any air pockets and tie it off. The idea is to form a cylinder of uniform thickness. If in doubt, here is an excellent step by step tutorial by the London Foodie of how to prep monkfish liver for sous vide cooking.

3.Seal cylinder of monkfish liver in vacuum bag and cook in water bath for 3 hours.

4.Chill- submerge vacuum bag with liver in ice bath and chill thoroughly.  Remove bag from ice bath and store in fridge until one hour before serving.

5.Prep- remove monkfish liver from fridge one hour before serving. While waiting for liver to come to room temperature, prepare garnish and sauce: Bring reduced fish stock to a simmer and add in sherry. Cook 30 seconds and turn off heat.  In separate pan heat butter over low until it begins to foam add in cabbage, season and cook one minute, covered. Turn off heat.

6.Plate- open vacuum bag, cut off ends of plastic wrap and gently unroll. Slice into 1/2′ thick rounds. Spoon 1 tablespoon of sauce on each piece of liver and finish with 1 tablespoon of wilted cabbage.



note: this only requires one minute of cooking, but timing is very important here. Make sure you have everything prepped out and ready. This is best served immediately while the inside of the liver is creamy and the outside is crunchy.  If you are serving this alongside the cold “torchon” preparation, have that ready and plated before you sear the liver.

yield: 3-4 appetizer portions


1/2 lb monkfish liver, milk brined

1 tablespoon grape seed oil

1 tablespoon dry vermouth

zest and juice of 1 orange

salt, to taste


1.Heat oil in 8″ skillet over medium high heat.  Portion liver into 3 or 4 equal pieces and pat dry.  When oil is very hot add liver to skillet and cook 30 seconds. Flip and cook 30 seconds on other side. Both sides should be nicely browned. Turn off flame, remove liver from skillet and drain on paper towels. Season with salt.

2. Serve– Immediately add vermouth, orange juice and pinch of salt to skillet (while it is still hot). Plate liver, spoon sauce on top and garnish with orange zest.

The Taste– The cold preparation was silky  and delicate. It just hinted of the sea.  The hot preparation was creamy and rich and could have easily passed for foie gras.

The Process- This was a really fun learning experience for me. I was really pleased that the experiment to treat monkfish liver like foie gras really had good results.

The Verdict- I would definitely do this again. While the cold preparation takes a bit of time, it can be done in a single day (which a true torchon of foie gras cannot). The hot preparation is a breeze and would be an impressive addition to a dinner party.


  1. Lovely – but I live in France and the first time that I bought it I asked my fishmonger, “How do you cook it?”. “Easy”, he replied. “Just like ordinary meat liver.” – so I floured it and fried it with chopped up onions, English style. DELICIOUS! Also I make terrine of it which is LOVELY with crackers for a canape. I’m having some fried tonight.

  2. Exec Chef, Nights Watch, Eastwatch by the Sea

    I boned a couple out, the larger one yielded a nice liver. I had already soaked it in milk and salt over the weekend before I found any advice on what to do.
    Perhaps I’ll served it with some chanterelles, slivered shallots, Samphire, touch of orange, and finished with some fig syrup and toasted pistachoes.
    Who knows? we’ll see

  3. Pingback: New Blog: The Savage and the Sage « Four Pounds Flour

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