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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Monchong fillets cook up quickly

 •  Monchong swims into the mainstream

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

Monchong, which is generally sold pre-cut into thinnish fillets, lends itself to quick cooking, pan-frying in less than 5 minutes. The flesh remains moist and has a mild flavor acceptable even to those who don't love fish.

Here are the ingredients used to make Monchong Italian-style. The fish is served with a relish made by tossing together minced basil, parsley, garlic, slivered grape tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Capers are an optional ingredient, not shown here.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Although fillets are supposed to be boneless, do gently feel the fish to make sure no pin bones were neglected. Then just pan-fry, sauté or quickly broil and serve with the desired sauce — or no sauce at all.

This recipe for monchong makes use of a versatile dressing that is equally nice served on hot pasta or over crisp pieces of garlic toast (crostini).

My technique for dusting fish with flour is to lay out the fish on a plate or cutting board, place the seasoned flour in a small mesh strainer and shake the stainer over the fish. This gives a nice, even coating. Turn fish and repeat. (Use finely ground salt and pepper or all the seasoning will remain in the strainer.)

Use a mellow, aged balsamic and a fruity extra-virgin olive oil.

Monchong Italian-style

  • Flour, salt and pepper for dredging fish
  • 4 (3-ounce) fillets monchong
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons capers (optional)
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Wipe monchong fillets with paper towel and dust each fillet lightly with flour that has been well-flavored with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, toss together capers, tomatoes, parsley, basil, garlic, vinegar and olive oil. Taste and add salt and pepper or additional balsamic vinegar if needed. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in frying pan over high heat; add monchong fillets, allowing even space around them. Fry fillets until golden-brown. Turn and sauté until golden-brown.

Place fillets on plates and dress each with one-quarter of the vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

• Per serving: Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 175 calories, 10 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 3 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 1.5 g sugar, 18 g protein.

• • •

Monchong lends itself to both Western and Asian treatments. This recipe for monchong with sake beurre blanc is similar to one served at the Kapalua Food and Wine Festival this year.

Making a beurre blanc (white butter sauce) is a little tricky. Just remember that the butter should be cold and the sake mixture medium-hot, but not simmering or boiling, or it will melt the butter. Melt the butter only part-way, so it is literally suspended in the warm sauce.

Grilled monchong with sake-ginger beurre blanc

  • 4 (3-ounce) fillets monchong

For the sauce:

  • 1/4 cup sake
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon shoyu
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 tablespoon minced scallion (green onion)
  • 1 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • Pre-heat grill or broiler. Warm serving plates.

Combine sake and vinegar; pour into small saucepan over medium-high heat; add ginger and simmer until reduced by half. Strain to remove ginger and return to saucepan.

Grill or broil monchong; about 2 minutes a side.

Meanwhile, add water, shoyu and scallion to saucepan; turn heat down to very low and begin to whisk in butter one piece at a time. Add each piece just as the one before is almost melted. Work slowly and do not allow heat to rise (sauce should not bubble or simmer); lift pan from heat occasionally. Whisk in pepper.

Place grilled or broiled monchong on warmed plates; drizzle with sauce. Serve immediately.

Sauce makes about 2/3 cup.

Makes 4 servings (1 fillet and about 3 tablespoons sauce, each).

• Per serving: 350 calories, 29 g total fat, 15 g saturated fat, 110 mg cholesterol, 120 mg sodium, 2 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 18 g protein.

• • •

All the experts we talked to said they preferred to keep their monchong preparations simple. Here are ideas for a simple pan-fried, sauteed or broiled monchong fillet.

Drizzle a fillet with:

Tomato Garlic Cream Sauce: Melt 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and cook until sizzling. Add 1/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth and boil until blend is reduced to a syrupy glaze. Meanwhile, whisk together 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 cup chicken stock and 1/2 cup whipping cream. Whisk tomato mixture into butter-garlic-wine mixture in saucepan and boil until sauce is reduced by about half and slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes about 1 cup, 16 servings.

• Per serving (1 tablespoon, sauce only): 41 calories, 3.6 grams fat, 0.6 grams protein, 0.8 grams carbohydrate (01. gram fiber).

From: "The Low-Carb Gourmet" by Karen Barnaby; Rodale, hardback, $35.

• • •

Flavored or "compound" butters are an easy, make-ahead alternative to beurre blanc sauce. You just place a thin slice of the butter on the freshly cooked, still-hot fish where it melts.

To make these butters, chop, shred, grate or grind very fine fresh or dried herbs, garlic, shallots, green onions, citrus rind, chilies, sun-dried tomatoes, cheese or nuts and combine with softened (but not melted) unsalted butter. Combine half and half for herbs and such; about one third to two thirds butter for more pungent ingredients, such as cheese, chilies or garlic. Place a piece of plastic wrap on a cutting board, mound the mixture in the center, form it into a log and chill until firm. Cut slices and let them melt on top of meats or vegetables. You can use flavored oils sparingly but you cannot use liquids, such as orange juice, because they won't combine with the butter.

Among the options that would work well for monchong are: orange rind and basil; ginger, sesame seeds and a little sesame oil; wasabi and green onion; pine nuts, lemon rind, basil and garlic.

• Per serving of butter (1 tablespoon): 108 calories; 0.1 grams protein; 0 carbohydrate; 33 milligrams cholesterol. Herbs and spices add negligible nutritional value. Salty ingredients increase sodium, of course.

From: "The Low-Carb Gourmet" by Karen Barnaby; Rodale, hardback, $35.