Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Salty Piece of Fish (to go with your steaming plate of rice)

I was inspired to create this dish after reading about Just Hungry's saba no miso ni.  However instead of mackerel, I decided to experiment with monkfish - primarily because I figured the thick piece of monkfish that I already have in my freezer is going to require some method of cooking that needs a long cooking time.  Monkfish differs from mackerel in that it is much meatier and less oily.  Nevertheless, I find that the meatiness is in fact a boon as it is better suited to absorb the flavors from this braising technique whilst the milder flavor of monkfish serves as an alternative if you are seeking a protein that is lighter on the palate.  My method steps rather widely away from Just Hungry - largely because I was lazy and decided to improvise on a few occasions.  But I think my method still works for a quick, easy meal.

Ingredients (serves 2):
1/4 lb monkfish
1 tbps light soy sauce
1 tbps mirin
1 tbsp sake
1 tsp ginger powder (freshly sliced ginger is preferred but since it wasn't in my fridge, I made do)
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp miso (darker miso is preferred but I would think any type of miso could work)
4 cups of water

1. Slice 3 slits across the top of the monkfish, the slits should go about halfway into the fish.
2. Stir all the liquids (except the water), ginger and miso together in a saucepan until it is dissolved.
3. Place the monkfish into the saucepan and add the water (adjust accordingly until the water level covers about half the thickness of the monkfish).
4. Bring the liquids up to boil slowly over medium heat, adjust the heat so that there is a low, steady simmer.
5. Cover the cooking monkfish with a piece of aluminum (or a Japanese drop-lid aka 'otoshi buta' if you have one).
6. Baste the monkfish occasionally with the sauce while it is cooking.
7. After about 15 minutes, turn off the heat and let the pot cool with the monkfish and sauce.
8. Eat right away with plain steamed rice.

My Observations:
1. Be sparing with the amount of soy sauce you use.  Remember that the miso adds another layer of salt.
2. Stop cooking once the monkfish is cooked.
3. Basting and covering the fish with aluminum is important as this helps the fish absorb the flavors in the cooking liquid.
4. You do not use enough liquids to cover the entire piece of fish because it will either be too salty (if you add more flavoring) or too bland (if you simply top-up with water).
5. The braising liquid is meant to be served as a sauce with the fish - hence, eating this dish with steamed rice is the best way to enjoy it.

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