Ankimo, or monkfish liver, when steamed, is considered a delicacy in Japan. The creamy texture is not unlike a fine pate. Ankimo is to be eaten in tiny bites and is an excellent accompaniment to sake or shochu.
The first time I saw a picture of a monkfish, I was in denial. How could it be so delicious yet so freaking grotesque?
Photo Kai Hendry (Flickr)
I also learned from Wikipedia that monkfish commonly measure one meter long-- that's over three feet! But even for its large size, I never guessed that it would have a liver that weighs over a pound. I asked my fish monger for "one monkfish liver" thinking it would fit in the palm of my hand, but stood in shock as he brought it out of the case. Its formless blob of a liver, seemed to fold out to nearly a foot with a girth of three inches. I quickly corrected myself and said, "A third of a pound please."
Back at my kitchen counter, I stared at the veiny, pink, third-of-a-pound monkfish liver. My challenge would be to roll it and steam it, which is the most common way to eat monkfish liver, or ankimo.
1. Rip the blood vessels out. (This was the most disgusting part of the process, so don't give up.) The tiny nerves are okay, as is.
2. Check it out after I ripped out the blood vessels. It looks like a chunky mess.
3. Salt the ankimo lightly. This is to extract the moisture from the liver.
4. Cover it in wrap on a plate and let it sit for an hour.
5. After an hour, the "juice" will collect and most of the water will be extracted. This is what you want-- a dry ankimo. Pat the ankimo dry with a paper towel.
6. Prepare your steamer-- make sure it's on high.
7. Use a bamboo roller mat and place a sheet of saran wrap on top of it.
8. Place your ankimo about a third of the way down on the mat.
9. Roll it while imagining the pleasing form of a Oscar Mayer Cold Cuts Braunschweiger Liver Sausage. That is what this roll should eventually look like.
10. After you've rolled the liver into the wrap, twist the ends (again, imaging the liver sausage).
11. Wrap it in some aluminum foil. Twist ends for a tight seal.
12. Place in the steamer and cook on high for 30 minutes. Make sure to keep it covered with a lid.
13. Before you eat it, make sure it has cooled down completely. I recommend putting it in the refrigerator for at least two hours -- ideally, and entire day.
Unwrapped... it still looks gross...
NOW it looks like what I'm used to!
14. Serve with negi and ponzu.
Making ankimo was surprisingly very easy and highly satisfying. This was such a success-- next time, I hope to buy a whole liver and make a few rolls to freeze for a rainy day. I've already decided that ankimo is going to be my signature item at potlucks this winter.
If you have never tried ankimo before, I suggest you try eating it at a restaurant before making it yourself.