Firm, meaty monkfish tails—pounded into paillards, breaded with panko and pan-fried—make the filling for a really delicious little fish sandwich. In our house, we make them slider-sized so we can have two each, and serve them with a crème fraîche–based take on tartar sauce and a pile of sweet potato fries. Ask your fishmonger to remove as much of the dark pink membrane from the monkfish as possible, but be prepared to use a very sharp paring knife and your fingers to take off whatever gets left behind. Pulsing the panko in a food processor to grind it down to a fine dust will give you a more even fry with less scorching at the edges, but you can skip that step if you’re in a hurry—just be careful to regulate the heat in your pan. You can also try this recipe with skate wing in place of the monkfish; just cut the skate to fit your buns and proceed (without pounding).
4–6 monkfish tails (1 tail per person)
2 cups panko breadcrumbs (have some extra on hand in case needed)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
½ teaspoon dried mustard
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 container crème fraîche
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives or scallion
6 cornichon pickles, minced
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
½ cup neutral oil for frying, like safflower or grape-seed
8–12 Iggy’s brioche dinner rolls or slider rolls
Softened unsalted butter, for serving
Boston lettuce, for serving
Lemon wedges, for serving
Watermelon radish, very thinly sliced on a mandoline, for serving (optional)
Hot sauce, for serving
Preheat the oven to 200°F. Using a sharp knife, remove as much of the dark pink membrane from the outside of each monkfish tail as you can. Slice each tail into 4 equal parts, each about 1–1½ inches wide. To form the paillards, place 1 piece of fish cut side up between 2 pieces of plastic wrap or waxed paper and press down to flatten it with your palm, then gently pound it out into a thin round with a mallet. (When you get to the tail tips, just pound them out flat, no need to press with your palm.)
Pulse the panko in your food processor to a fine dust and transfer it to a shallow bowl. Set up a dredging station with 2 additional shallow bowls and a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to hold the breaded fish. Stir the granulated garlic and dried mustard into the flour in 1 bowl and beat the eggs in the other. Season each side of the paillards with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour, dip in egg and coat in panko. Arrange the breaded fish on the baking sheet and place in the fridge to firm up a bit while you make the sauce.
In a small bowl, stir together the crème fraîche, herbs, pickles, lemon juice and zest, and season to taste with salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar. Set aside until ready to serve.
When ready to cook, heat a cast-iron skillet over medium. Butter cut sides of each roll and toast in the pan until golden brown. Set 2 rolls on each plate and pour ½ cup oil into the skillet. Working in batches, fry the fish until golden brown, about 3–4 minutes each side. As the paillards are cooked, place them on a baking sheet lined with a metal cooling rack in the oven to keep warm while you fry the rest, wiping out the skillet and adding more oil between batches.
When all the fish is cooked, place 2 paillards on each bun and top with a spoonful of herbed cream, a few lettuce leaves and the watermelon radish slices, if using. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and hot sauce.
Sarah Blackburn is a home cook, recipe developer, soccer mom, Italophile and managing editor at Edible Boston. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.