Angler, monkfish, goose fish and belly fish are all names for the same exceedingly ugly but delicious fish. This fish earns its living by "fishing" for other fish, thus its common name, angler.
It has a modified dorsal spine with a fleshy appendage that it uses for a fishing rod. The angler fish lies quietly on the bottom and waves its wormlike appendage over its head. When a smaller fish is attracted, the angler leaps off the bottom to devour its prey. Renowned for a prodigious appetite, the angler's diet frequently includes waterfowl and shellfish, with lobster being a favorite.
This East Coast fish is found from Newfoundland to the Carolinas. During the winter, the angler fish hugs the coastline in search of food and warm waters. This is the time of the year when most angler finds its way to the marketplace.
Usually, just the tail is sold, and the huge ungainly head is discarded at sea. The angler fish is dense and firm with a mild, sweet flavor. Sometimes referred to as "poor man's lobster," the texture in particular is quite lobsterlike.
This firm texture makes it ideal for a broad range of cooking methods. One can deep-fry cubes, poach slices for a salad, roast a whole fillet to slice, or use just about any recipe calling for firm-fleshed white fish. Its large central bone and any trimmings make a flavorful and gelatinous stock.
WARM CABBAGE SALAD
8 ounces angler fillet, cut into 1/2-inch squares
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon sugar
4 cups chopped red cabbage
Season angler with salt and pepper to taste. Dredge in flour, then saute in hot oil. Remove angler from pan and keep warm. Add vinegar, sugar and cabbage to pan and cook over low heat until warmed through. Toss fish and cabbage mixture together and adjust seasonings to taste. Makes 4 servings.