If you love lobster thermidor you will love this version made with poor man's lobster at a fraction of the cost!
The 'lobster' is piled into dishes and smothered with a delicious white wine, cream and shallot thermidor sauce. Then it's topped with Parmesan and baked under the grill until golden and bubbling.
Perfect for Christmas eve as a starter or main course, fish Friday and entertaining too!
And the best bit? It's ready in 20 minutes and uses just one pan.
This is a term that is often given to monkfish, although sometimes it can refer to any firm white fish.
Although it is a fish with a central backbone and not a shellfish like lobster, it doesn't have any fiddly bones. The flesh is quite meaty and doesn't flake, so it's easy to cook too.
The term refers to French word relating to heat and also the 11th month of the year in the French revolutionary calendar. However, some sources believe that the dish is named in honour of a play called Thermidor or that it was named by Napolean.
The dish itself is comprised of cooked lobster which is chopped and returned to its shell, covered in a creamy sauce and grilled with cheese.
Monkfish is found all around the British Isles all year long and varieties are also found all over the world with different names, such as:
- stargazer fish - Australia
- angler fish -US
- lotte - France
- fishing frog
Although lobster is delicious there isn't very much meat on it so I prefer this fish to lobster. One monkfish tail will feed 4 people too, with much less preparation. Here's why I think that you will love this dish:
- Easy to prepare - there's just one bone to remove.
- Cheaper - approximate cost for lobster is £38 per kilogram and £21 for monkfish.
- Mild, sweet taste that is not overly fishy.
- Holds its shape when cooking.
- Low in fat and full of protein.
- Monkfish- one monkfish tail will feed 4 people.
- Cheese - traditionally Swiss Gruyère was used in this French dish but I love the taste of Parmesan instead.
- Butter - salted or unsalted but you will need to adjust the seasoning if using salted butter.
- Shallots - the longer banana shallots are easier to peel. Chop them finely
- Fish stock - from concentrate or a carton.
- White wine - use a dry white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc or Muscadet.
- Cream - double or heavy cream.
- Mustard - French Dijon mustard not yellow or brown French mustard.
- Parsley - fresh chopped flat leaf parsley.
See recipe card for quantities.
- Frying pan or skillet
- Measuring jug
- Wooden spoon
Start by preparing the monkfish. It's simple to do it yourself.
Remove any skin and membranes then slice off any fins.
Place the fish on a board and use a sharp knife to cut down either side of the backbone.
Chop the fish into bite sized chunks to mimic the chopped cooked lobster that is covered in the thermidor sauce.
💭 Top tip
- Put the backbone in a bag in the freezer, then add to it when you have fish or shellfish. When the bag is full it's easy to make your own fish stock or seafood bisque.
Heat some butter in a frying pan and add the fish pieces. Cook over a medium heat for about 3 minutes until the fish is just opaque.
Divide the fish between four dishes while you make the sauce.
Heat the remaining butter and add the chopped shallots.
Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes until they are softened.
Pour in the stock, wine and cream then bring to a simmer.
Let the sauce gently bubble and reduce by half.
Stir in the mustard, half of the cheese and parsley.
Check the seasoning and add pepper and salt to taste.
Divide the thermidor sauce between the dishes and sprinkle over the remaining cheese.
⏲️ Grilling time
Preheat the grill to medium and grill for about 4 minutes until the top is golden and crusty.
🥗 Side dishes
I served this with peas and thrice cooked chips but you could try:
- Shallots - use normal brown or white onion instead or chopped spring onions.
- Wine - leave the wine out and use extra stock if you prefer. Adding a tablespoon of white wine vinegar works well too.
- Fish - use any white fish such as cod, haddock, hake or pollock, or shellfish including prawns, scallops, and mussels. This is a great way of making a starter with a bag of frozen mixed seafood. If you have ready cooked fish then make the sauce in advance and gently reheat before grilling.
- Herbs - rather than parsley use tarragon, basil and dill, which are all delicious with fish.
This is not the sort of dish where there will be leftovers! If you do have any leftover, cover and store in the fridge for 2 days.
This dish is not suitable for freezing.
Poor Man's Lobster with Thermidor Sauce
- Frying pan or skillet
- Measuring jug
- wooden spoon
- 1 kg monkfish
- 3 tablespoon butter
- 2 shallots chopped
- 400 ml fish stock
- 100 ml dry white wine
- 200 ml double cream heavy
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoon parsley chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt to taste
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 50 g Parmesan grated
- Place the fish on a board and use a sharp knife to cut down either side of the backbone to form 2 fillets, then chop the fish into bite sized chunks.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a frying pan and add the fish pieces. Cook over a medium heat for about 3 minutes until the fish is just opaque.
- Divide the fish between four ovenproof dishes.
- Heat the remaining butter then add the chopped shallots and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes until they are softened.
- Pour in the stock, wine and cream then bring to a simmer.
- Let the sauce gently bubble and reduce by half.
- Stir in the mustard, half of the cheese and parsley.
- Check the seasoning then add pepper and salt to taste.
- Divide the thermidor sauce between the dishes and sprinkle over the remaining cheese.
- Preheat the grill to medium and grill for about 4 minutes until the top is golden and crusty.
Disclaimer: The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.
Please refer to the post for detailed recipe instructions.
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat.
- Wash hands after touching raw meat.
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods.
- Never leave cooking food unattended'
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds.
- Always have good ventilation when using gas.
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