Sourcing smoked almonds that aren’t salted is probably going to be the most difficult part of this recipe. However, if you are lucky enough as to have a reliable dealer for unsalted smoked almonds, then that is truly nuts.
I’m more than willing to make this monkfish with cauliflower & a smoked almond purée and crab sauce recipe for anyone, in exchange for info on such elusive delights.
The crustacean part of the process is time-consuming, yes. And if you are having feelings of deja vu, then that’s because the topic of crab is something we did nip in the bud, back in 2017. Please see Back in bisqueness for what’s in store.
The only real differences in preparation here is that we are dealing with just one large brown crab, and that the stock will simply become the sauce once sieved, reduced, and loaded with butter.
Shopping list (serves 4)
Large brown crab (roughly 1.5kg) x 1
Large white onions (roughly chopped) x 2
Carrots (roughly chopped) x 4
Celery sticks (roughly chopped) x 4
Garlic cloves (smashed) x 3
White wine x 300ml
Fresh thyme x 1 very large handful
Bay leaves x 4
Water x roughly 3 litres
Unsalted butter x 50g
Cauliflower & smoked almond purée:
Large cauliflower (roughly chopped) x 1
Smoked almonds x 300g
Unsalted butter x 50g
Zest of one lemon
Monkfish tails (skin removed) x 2
Brandy x 25ml
Cauliflower leaves from cauliflower
Red amaranth to garnish (optional)
For salted smoked almonds, wash them with cold water first to remove the salt. Now you can cover them with boiled water in a bowl (probably around 500ml).
Leave overnight or for at least eight hours. Sieve and retain 150ml of the water.
Boil the cauliflower in well-salted water for 10 minutes, before removing and allowing to cool completely on some kitchen roll. In a large saucepan, add the cauliflower, sieved nuts, the retained water and gradually begin to heat up to medium. Add the butter and lemon zest and blitz thoroughly with a hand blender until completely smooth. Remove from the heat until needed.
The crab sauce
Dispatch the crab humanely if alive. Again, see Back in bisqueness on how to do so.
In a large stockpot, fry off the vegetables and garlic in plenty of rapeseed oil. Do this over a high heat for 10 minutes. Pour in the white wine and reduce completely before adding the water, herbs and bay leaves. Bring the mixture up to boil and carefully lower the whole crab into the boiling water.
Leave for 10 minutes. Remove the crab and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes. Keep the rest of mixture simmering away, adding about half a tablespoon of salt to it.
Set your oven to 200°C (fan)/220°C
Once cooled you can remove the large claws first. Follow this by removing the legs and prying the top shell of the crab away from the leg section, pushing upwards with your thumbs, with the crab upside down, facing towards you.
Remove all the white meat from the large claws. Just keep this aside and chilled for having on toast the next day, or just eat right there and then.
Scoop out all of the brown meat in the top part of the shell, and pour into the simmering stockpot. Use a rolling pin to smash the shells, claws, and legs of the crab up. You’ll want to put an old tea towel over as you do this. You don’t have to reduce it to a fine dust, so don’t go crazy making an even larger mess than necessary.
Place the broken up shells on an oven tray and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and put these parts into the stockpot.
Phew, you can chill now. And clean up that bomb site.
Keep the stock simmering for at least eight hours – there should be roughly 800ml of liquid by the end – and then sieve it. Retain the liquid (obviously), and reduce it further in a small saucepan to about 400ml. Add the 50g of butter and season to taste if needed. Set aside and keep warm until needed.
Ask your fishmonger to remove the membrane/skin/whatever that stuff is on the tails.
Use a sharp knife to slice two fillets from either side of the two tail bones. Trim away any remaining bits of membrane\skin\whatever that stuff is. Season the fillets generously with salt and black pepper.
Set your oven to 180°C (fan)/200°C.
In a frying pan, heat a glug of oil and a large knob of butter over a high heat. Once the pan is searing hot, place the four fillets in the pan and cook for three minutes on both sides. Add the brandy, and baste regularly.
Leave the fillets to rest for five minutes, whilst you place the cauliflower leaves in the hot oven until just crisped. Reheat the purée and sauce.
Serve all together, garnished with red amaranth, if you like.