MONKFISH MEATBALLS IN TOMATO SAUCE
Polpette di Rospo in Sugo
The firm texture of monkfish is ideal for grinding and rolling into fish 'meatballs.' Capers and parsley add a lot of flavor and stand up against the raisin-pine sauce. Serving the monkfish meatballs over ziti tossed with the tomato sauce would be a fun way to take a break from the Italian-American standard-spaghetti and meatballs.
Makes 6 servings
1 1/2 pounds monkfish fillets
2 cups bread cubes (1-inch), cut from day-old Italian bread with the crusts removed
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/3 cup capers, drained and chopped
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning the sauce
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more for seasoning the sauce
1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
Freshly ground pepper
2 bay leaves
It is a good idea to roll up and fry one of these fish balls before forming the whole batch. You can check the seasoning and add a little salt and pepper if you like before you cook them all. Cooking a little sample is a good thing to keep in mind when you're making meatballs, too.
Trim any skin and the gray membrane from the monkfish fillets. Cut the fillets into 1-inch chunks and chill them thoroughly. Pass the fish through a meat grinder fitted with a disk with holes about ¼-inch in diameter. (Alternately, you may grind the fish, half at a time, using quick on/off pulses in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Either way, the fish should resemble ground beef after grinding it.)
Toss the bread into a mixing bowl and pour enough cold water over it to cover completely. Let soak until completely saturated. Drain the bread well and squeeze it between your hands to remove as much water as possible.
Crumble the bread into a mixing bowl and beat in the eggs, parsley, capers, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Stir in the ground monkfish until incorporated. Using 1 tablespoon of the fish mixture for each, form balls by rolling the mixture between your palms. When you have formed all the balls, dredge them lightly in flour to coat all sides.
Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet or braising pan large enough to hold all the fish balls and sauce until rippling. Add as many fish balls as will fit without touching. Fry, turning as necessary, until golden on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet.
Pour off the oil from the pan, pour in the olive oil, and heat over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, bay leaves and 1 cup of water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the sauce is at a simmer. Cook 15 minutes.
Stir in the raisins and pine nuts and nestle the fish balls into the sauce, shaking the pan gently till they are covered with sauce.
Simmer 20 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Let the fish balls rest in the sauce off the heat for 10 minutes, then serve.
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