If chicken feet were as pedestrian as chicken wings, I probably wouldn’t like them as much as I do. I only eat them when I’m out for dim sum. Half the fun is watching the look of surprise in the waiters’ eyes when I order them. They glance at me sideways, questioning if I really know what I’m getting myself into. I nod eagerly, “yes, yes, please.” The other half of the fun is gnawing around the bones and then spitting them out with my chopsticks – completely acceptable behavior in Chinatown. The chicken feet don’t have much flavor beyond the sauce they are cooked in.
Ankimo may not have the same shock value as chicken feet, but it certainly elicits similarly odd reactions. I’ve taken to calling it monkfish “foie gras” instead of liver to minimize people’s discomfort. It doesn’t taste fishy or liver-y – just like duck foie gras doesn’t taste of duck. It’s just rich, creamy goodness. And I like monkfish liver, shock value or not.
You won’t see the liver until winter, when the water temperatures drop and the liver fattens up. Then you can find it at sushi bars and fish-markets. Though all the Japanese markets in Cambridge have closed in the last few years, I can still find ankimo at New Deal or Capt. Marden’s by special order.
Traditionally, the liver is formed into a cylinder, steamed and then served with grated daikon and chilies. I poach it in dashi – a cook it slightly under-done. I’m told I shouldn’t do this, but the texture is a bit creamier and I like the flavor a bit better. I serve it in Japanese soup spoons for an hors d’oeuvre, or in little bowls as an appetizer. Either way, I garnish it with Ponzu sauce, scallions, wakame seaweed and cucumbers.
Ankimo with Ponzu
1 pound monkfish liver.
1 3” piece of kombu
½ cup bonito flakes
¼ cup soy sauce
3 cups water
1 tsp. Dried wakame
1 small cucumber, sliced thin (or radishes)
2 scallions, cut into thin rounds
Put monkfish liver in a pot with the kombu, bonito flakes, and soy sauce. Add enough water to cover. Over a medium heat, bring the pot to a simmer, remove the kombu, and continue to simmer for a minute. Remove from heat and let liver cool in the liquid.
While the liver is poaching, soak the dried wakame in cold water. It will explode in size, so make sure you have it in a decent sized bowl.
When liver is cool, but in the refrigerator to completely chill.
Slice thin pieces and serve with ponzu, cucumber slices, wakame and scallions.