At Christmas, foie gras is often served as a starter in France, to the delight of gourmets seated around the table. But to add a little variety to the usual festive feast, how about discovering another festive dish, monkfish liver?
While monkfish liver is not a direct substitute for foie gras, it does offer interesting texture and flavour, that could easily be enjoyed in the place of, or in addition to foie gras.
We spoke to Sten Furic, managing director of La Compagnie Bretonne, a gourmet French seafood company, to find out more about this seafood delicacy:
Where do the monkfish come from, from which the livers are taken, and how are they caught?
The monkfish are caught by boats off Guilvinec, a port near Saint-Guénolé. We indicate the name of the boats supplying us on each of the tins. These are offshore fishing boats, that is to say that the boats are out at sea for 4 to 10 days.
The livers are removed on the boat from monkfish caught on the last days of the catch. The livers are fragile, and kept cool by the fishermen in small quantities.
How are the monkfish livers processed back on dry land?
Once in the factory, the livers are sorted: we remove excessively large livers (which risk being dry), damaged or bruised livers. The livers are then briefly brined (immersed in a large saltwater bath), de-veined and cleaned.
How are these livers then prepared?
They are cut to the size of the tin with a knife, then nested raw by hand. Cooking occurs at the time of sterilization, this is where the liver produces the oil that is found at the opening of the tin. The oil can be present in more or less quantity, and its natural colour can vary from orange to ocher (colour of "melted butter"). These disparities come from fishing zones which vary according to the boats.
How would you describe the taste of monkfish liver?
Monkfish liver has a melting texture and an iodized and natural taste with fine and sweet flavours.
How should we eat monkfish liver?
Cut with a thin, straight knife and presented on granary toast as an aperitif. As a starter, a slice of monkfish liver can be served with a green salad. You can also use liver oil to make a sauce to accompany the salad. Also, we can add a little fleur de sel, pepper, or a dash of lemon on the liver.
What should we drink with monkfish liver?
If you serve the monkfish liver with a chutney, for example, sweet white wine is good. Otherwise a dry wine such as a good Muscadet or Sauvignon pairs well. My preferred choice is well-malted whiskey.