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French Monkfish Stew (Lotte à L'Américaine/L'Armoricaine)

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An easy classic for entertaining: French Monkfish stew – cooked in tomatoes, garlic, onions, white wine, Cognac and served with rice.

French monkfish casserole


French Monkfish stew is a classic and often served on special occasions, as it uses top ingredients yet is so easy to make for entertaining. However, it’s known in France as both Lotte à L’Américaine and Lotte à L’Armoricaine – although refers to the same dish. I’ll tell you why below.

I love this easy monkfish recipe and each time I make it, the family ask why we don’t have it more often. That’s coming from my eldest daughter who doesn’t even like white fish!

This recipe was originally published on le blog on 19 July 2016. As it is a popular recipe here, I have updated it to include a printable recipe card, a video and more about the history of this French dish.

A French Fish Dish For Special Occasions

When first starting out in Paris nearly 30 years ago, I remember being bowled over by this dish cooked by Antoine’s friends. It’s a regional speciality of Brittany: a chic yet simple French Monkfish stew, Lotte à l’Armoricaine is cooked in white wine, garlic, onions and tomatoes with that extra French touch of being flambéed with Cognac.

It was the first time we were served fish for the main course at a French dinner and boy, did it leave a delicious mark on me.  The fish was firm and tasty and somehow the fish hadn’t disintegrated into the sauce.  It was so good, that I eventually managed to persuade them to tell me the recipe and, over the years, I’ve made it in this way. I add more garlic and a hint of Cayenne pepper to give it that intriguing and subtle kick.

I often read in French cookbooks that the best way to serve monkfish is either roasted or grilled. However, served as this classic French monkfish stew, you’ll discover just how a simple fish dish can be taken to another level.

rue de la poissonnerie french sign

Lotte à L’Américaine or Lotte à L’Armoricaine?

Later, I discovered this monkfish dish on some Parisian restaurant menus as Lotte à l’Américaine. Had they made a mistake? No. In our French gourmet dictionary, Larousse Gastronomique, it’s only known as Lotte à L’Américaine.

Both names refer to the SAME dish, although the Breton Armoricaine version adds a touch of crème fraîche at the end of cooking.

Let me tell you the story of the two names, although it’s a bit rough around the edges and can’t find any more on the subject.

The sauce à l’Armoricaine is a traditional French recipe from coastal Brittany where it is most commonly prepared with shellfish, or used to flavour firm white-fleshed fish such as La Lotte or Monkfish– otherwise known as poor man’s lobster.

The story dates back to the end of the 19th century when it was created by French chef Pierre Fraisse, originally from Sète who had returned to Paris from working in the USA. A group of clients arrived in his restaurant, Peter’s, and he realised all he had was tomorrow’s lobster: so he rustled up a lobster dish in a tomato sauce, reminiscent of his native South with Breton overtones. When prompted for the name of the recipe, he called it Lobster – with an American Sauce.

french monkfish stew rice beans

Monkfish: No Small Bones

Monkfish, or la lotte in French, is normally presented on our fish stalls without the ugly head – I’ve rarely seen it here hence I have no photos but if you look it up, you’ll see it’s a specimen that would be the bad guy in a film like Nemo! Hence why it’s also known as “sea-devil” (diable de mer) or “frog-fish” (crapaud).

How many times have you been served fish and you’re trying to filter out the bones in your mouth while juggling polite chit-chat at the table?

Once the large central bone is removed, there are NO OTHER BONES in sight – making it perfect to serve for special occasions.

What Does Monkfish Taste Like?

All the monkfish meat is in the tail (queue de lotte) and I say ‘meat’ as it’s a firm, ‘meaty’ fish. Also referred to as “Poor Man’s Lobster”, it even tastes a bit like it, as it has quite a sweet taste to it. So, it’s a fish version of lobster that’s slightly cheaper! Moreover, when cooked the fish doesn’t flake.

monkfish french market display

Monkfish – Perfect for Cooking

My daughter, Julie, says it outright. She just doesn’t like fish, especially white fish and yet will eat monkfish – only if done this way with such a delicious, thick tomato sauce. What’s more, it’s healthy too.

Monkfish is perfect for cooking as it doesn’t break up in cooking (as long as you follow the instructions below). The secret is to remove the fish after initially browning it on all sides and then TAKE IT OFF THE HEAT to cook the sauce.

Just add the fish back in to the pot 10 minutes before the end of cooking.  That way the fish is beautifully cooked. As fish is quite expensive, I like to respect it: overcooking will just turn the fish medallions into bullets, so please don’t leave the fish to cook all during the recipe.

french monkfish stew no bones

Do I Need to Make Fish Stock?

I used to make a fish stock for this recipe but over time I have become rather lazy and honestly don’t see a  difference in flavour with this version. See my video for details.

If you really want to make your own fish stock, ask your fishmonger for the skin and bone to be packaged separately to make your own fish stock (see note below).
Fish Stock Tip: as you’re leaving the fish stock to cool, tell anyone lurking around the kitchen what it is: the first time I made this as a student, my Dad poured my precious hard-worked fish stock down the sink thinking it was dirty water!

Another reason why I don’t bother!  See the recipe below.

How To Serve French Monkfish Stew

Whether dishing this up for family or for a dinner party, I love to serve this directly from the cooking pot at the table.

Serve with fluffy rice and green beans; for stress-free entertaining, I prepare the green beans in advance until just cooked, then plunge into chilled water (to stop the cooking process) then drain and keep aside until ready to serve.  At the last minute, I sauté the beans (haricots vert) in olive oil with finely chopped garlic and fresh parsley.

This dish is also perfect for serving outdoors. Serve with a chilled rosé and plenty of laughter with lively conversation.

Looking for another fish stew?
Try a Californian Cioppino Italian-American Seafood Stew (Christina’s Cucina)

french monkfish stew pin

French Monkfish Stew
(Lotte à L’Américaine/Armoricaine)

french monkfish stew no bones
5 from 13 votes

French Monkfish Stew (Lotte à L'Américaine/Armoricaine)

Author: Jill Colonna
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course : Main Course, Main
Cuisine : French
Keyword : easy fish recipes, French Monkfish classic dish, Lotte à l'Américaine
Servings : 6 people
Calories : 488kcal

Description

An easy Monkfish recipe from France using meat from the monkfish tail cooked in tomatoes, garlic, onions, white wine, Cognac and served with rice - a perfect dish for special occasions

Ingredients

  • 2 kg (5lb) Large monkfish tail fillets (already prepared)
  • 4 tbsp plain flour
  • 50 g (2oz) butter (unsalted)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp Cognac (if no Cognac, use Whisky)
  • 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 1 tin (400g) peeled tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp tomato purée (concentrate)
  • 400 ml (14 floz) white wine
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 branch fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley finely chopped
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp crème fraîche (optional)

Instructions

  • Cut the monkfish tail fillets into large medallion chunks.
    Coat the fish lightly in the flour on a large plate.Heat the butter and olive oil in a heavy-based crockpot (dutch oven) and once slightly bubbling, add the fish. Lightly brown on all sides then add the Cognac. Take the pan off the heat and flambé off the alcohol (consequently if you’re worried about doing this, just add it into the pan and boil it off).
  • Using a slotted spoon, place the fish medallions aside on a plate.
    Meanwhile, in the same pan, gently fry the onion & garlic back on the heat until translucent, then add the tomato, purée, wine, cayenne, bay leaves, thyme and pour in the juices from the removed fish.
    Bring to a boil then leave to simmer and reduce (uncovered) for about 30 minutes.
  • Return the fish to the pot and heat through for just a further 10 minutes but be careful not to cook for much longer, otherwise the fish will turn into bullets!
    Add the fresh parsley and a few turns of the salt and pepper mills to taste and, if using, stir in the crème fraîche.

Notes

Serve with fragrant rice, fresh green beans and extra parsley.
*I used to make this with fish stock but now just drain the juices from the removed fish (see on VIDEO HERE)
For purists who prefer with, here's a Quick Fish Stock: Put the skin and fish bone in a large pan with a carrot, onion, fennel bulb, 2 bay leaves, sprig of thyme, 5 peppercorns and add just enough water to cover. Boil, remove any scum, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and cool.
WINE SUGGESTIONS: a fruity and sunny ample white such as Crozes Hermitage, Meursault, Savennières or Alsace Riesling; or a rosé such as Bandol, Côtes de Provence; or a red Sancerre.
Nutritional Information: 488 Calories per serving; 64g protein, 13g lipids.

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Reviews (14)

5 stars
Looks utterly delicious, Jill! Those big chunks of fish are calling my name! What a bummer that your dad dumped your fish stock! Oh dear! Too many cooks in the kitchen, as they say! haha!

Thanks Christina. Exactly on too many cooks – it happened a while ago now but my Dad has never forgotten it. He felt terrible as I think I probably cried big-time since I spent so long on it. That’s probably why I don’t like preparing fish stock, lol.

5 stars
Hello Jill,

Just wanted to say thanks for sharing this delicious recipe. I haven’t yet tried with the addition of crème fraîche, today may be the day as I want to try it again, but adding a bit of fresh chili to it. This is a test to satisfy my personal taste, but as written your recipe was truly delicious. Thanks again for sharing.

Bonjour Gerry,
So happy to hear you love this too. My eldest daughter doesn’t like fish much but says she’ll eat it this way! Enjoy making this again over the weekend – let me know how your addition of chili goes x

Bonjour Jill,
FYI, I liked it with the chilli, of which I’m a big fan, but honestly I prefer the original version you do here. It’s become a firm favourite in my house in Sitges(Spain). I’ve found by adding some more stock to leftovers, I end up with a lovely soup.

How lovely of you to come back and tell us after your experiment. Thanks so much – I love that you make a soup out of the leftovers. We’re not so lucky with leftovers in our house! So happy you’re enjoying the recipe with us from Spain.

5 stars
A divine recipe!!!! Tried it for the first time last night – why did I not try it before?!?! :)))
Absolutely stunning!
Only request would be tips and pointers on how to flambé off the alcohol as I struggled to get any flame going..

Now that’s wonderful news you tried the recipe.
You’ve made me realise I should have changed the words around to “take off the heat THEN flambé”. I use one of these candle lighters and it subsides naturally after a couple of seconds. If you don’t fancy doing that, there’s nothing wrong with just adding the Cognac to the dish while still on the heat and boiling off the alcohol.


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