7th October 2015

Pan-roasted burbot tails with smoked ham

By MaitreMarcel

Yes, burbot. Aka Mariah, freshwater ling, coney-fish.

It is a very old species with a kind of spine instead of bones, as well as a rather large mouth, and does not win beauty prizes.

On French market stalls you find it already skinned, gutted and beheaded in appetising white parts.

The burbot lives in fresh or brackish water, such as river estuaries, and it looks like the salt-water monkfish, than lives further out in sea from the river mouth. The tails of the monkfish are also sold in France as “lotte”, just for confusion.

Both have cod-like whitish flesh, do not flake, and can easily overcook.

I had a set of four tails for 10 euros on the market. Small tails that tapered and therefore there was a risk that either the thin end would be overcooked or the wide end undercooked.

That is why I wrapped the thin end in smoked ham, thinly sliced Black Forest Ham, for both the taste and to get evenly cooked fish meat. I added some ground Japanese pepper mix and lemon juice.



  • 4 burbot or small monkfish tails
  • 4 thin slices of smoked ham
  • 50 grams of butter
  • Two table spoons of lemon juice
  • A sprinkling of Japanese assorted chilli peppers (Nanami Togarashi)



  1. Clean and wash the tails by removing remaining fins and bits of the dark skin.
  2. Pat dry.
  3. Heat butter in a skillet.
  4. Roll the tail ends in the smoked ham, making sure that the folds of the ham are at the bottom of the fish (the topside is wider and whiter)
  5. Put the fish in the hot butter, topside down, and cook for 3 minutes.
  6. Turn the fish, sprinkle with chilli pepper powder and cook for another 3 minutes.
  7. Add the lemon juice, let it evaporate and put a lid on the skillet (or just over the fish in the skillet if the lid does not fit – it needs to trap the heat – and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the fish. You can test the doneness with a knifepoint, or even by inserting a meat thermometer that should read  60 °C.
  8. Serve immediately (otherwise the fish will first continue to cook and then cool down and toughen)