Pecan-Crusted Monkfish with Bourbon Corn & Roasted Tomatoes

Apr 26, 2012 by


The idea for this dish came out of “left field,” aka: that beautiful place from which all of my favorite experiences, people and creations wander forth (cue James Earl Jones’ voice over).

I woke up last Friday morning with an unusual flavor tickling at my mouth: hints of toasty cumin, bright chilies and rustic vegetables. The idea sat with me curiously all morning. It built Pinocchio strings across my brain and pulled at them, wanting to become alive.

Driving to a rock show late at night, I continued testing out ideas in my head. For me, writing recipes is like playing out a sort of odd, strategic chess game across my mind. I think of a move and then try to figure out how it will affect every aspect of the plate. “Ok, if I put the cumin into the marinade, then it will reveal itself while I’m chewing. But, if I crust it onto the fish, then it’ll hit me right way, which will then impact the balance of sweetness, and so forth.” My mind loves to work and twirl in this way.

 As a testament to the stubbornness of this idea, I was still thinking about it early Saturday morning, even after many bottles of beer and 4 loud rock/metal sets. I was still thinking about it when I walked my dog around the neighborhood in the afternoon, and I was still thinking about it when I drove to the store on Sunday.

 Sunday, Earth Day, was a messy afternoon to be out buying ingredients. The rain whipped at my brown grocery bags, blew my hair into my eyes and made my water-logged pant hems curl awkwardly around my boots. Mother Earth really does know how to throw a party [and, ahem, she’ll cry if she wants to.]

 Discovering bourbon-soaked corn on a cold day is not unlike that feeling of coming in from a storm, and finding, as I did, a miraculous pile of clean, dry pants and socks lying on the bed. Warm and toasty, I started to cook, tasting everything I needed and craved, and chuckling at the foresight of the laundry pile I’d forgotten to sort before leaving for work on Friday. A small part of me thinking that somehow, I made this pile on my bed before I knew I’d need its warmth on my feet, and I made this meal in my mind before I even knew I’d need its warmth in my belly. It was meant to be so.





1.5 lb monkfish
1.5 teaspoons cumin
½ teaspoon coriander
3 large, dried ancho chili peppers
1 cup ground pecans
3 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1 chopped shallot
2 garlic cloves
3 sprigs of thyme, chopped
¼ cup butter
¼ cup bourbon
3 tablespoons light cream
2 cups grape tomatoes






Boil 2 cups of water in a medium sized pot. Add the ancho chilies and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover and let the chilies steep for 30 minutes. Once the liquid is cool, mash the chilies against the side of the pot to distribute the heat and flavor throughout the water. 

In a large ziplock bag, combine the cumin, coriander, honey and chili broth.  Add the fish, seal and let marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

 Meanwhile, go read a book, have a solo dance party, call your favorite relative, etc. You have about an hour to kill.


Take the butter and melt it in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the garlic and brown for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the shallots and thyme and sauté until the shallots are soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the corn, stir to combine and then cover the pan. If you’re using raw corn, you’ll need to cook the mixture for 10 minutes until the corn is soft. If you’re using defrosted, pre-cooked corn, you can limit the cooking time to 4 minutes.


Add the bourbon to the corn mixture and stir until is absorbs/evaporates, about 2 minutes.

 Let the corn cool slightly, then load it into a blender and pulse just a few times, adding the cream as you go.Note: you want the mixture to have an uneven texture, with some kernels still whole.


 Preheat the oven to 500°. Remove the fish from its marinade, cut into 4 portions and coat with the ground pecans. Place the fish in a baking pan, surround with grape tomatoes and bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.



To serve: spoon some corn onto the plate, top with the fish and then mound a good portion of roasted tomatoes on top. Season with salt and pepper.





Original recipe by Bre Goldsmith
Special thanks to Joe, my favorite eating partner, for suggesting the tomatoes. They were a perfect! 

Makes 4 portions



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