We had friends over for dinner. She likes fish, but he likes meat and red wine. I ended up preparing Portuguese style cheeks in a red wine sauce for everyone, but we had Iberico pork cheeks, and she had monkfish cheeks. This can also be prepared with regular monkfish, but it was fun to have cheeks for everyone. The monkfish cheeks work well with red wine…
…but also with white wine. The Portuguese flavors (lemon rind, bay leaf, garlic, paprika) work just as well with the monkfish as they did with the pork cheeks. You could omit the tomato to keep the color ‘white’. The recipe remains the same otherwise. Unlike the pork cheeks, it doesn’t require long cooking. In fact, the monkfish is cooked very gently in the residual heat of the sauce for about 10 minutes only. This gentle cooking ensures that the fish will be tender and moist. The amounts in the recipe are for 4 servings, but the photos of the preparations are for a single portion.
600 grams (1.3 lbs) monkfish or monkfish cheeks, in 4 portions
4 bay leaves, preferably fresh
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 strips of lemon rind
1 onion, sliced
1 ripe tomato (optional), peeled, seeded, and diced
250 ml (1 cup) red or white wine
500 ml (2 cups) fish stock, preferably made with head or bones from monkfish
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp cornstarch
500 grams (1.1 lbs) runner beans and good quality extra virgin olive oil, for serving
If your fish monger hasn’t done so already, remove the membrane from the monkfish.
Season the monkfish with 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika and 1 teaspoon of table salt.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the salt to penetrate the fish.
Afterwards, pat the monkfish dry with paper towels.
Sear the monkfish over high heat in olive oil on all sides. This is just for flavor development; the fish should remain raw inside. Take the monkfish out of the pan and put it on a plate.
Add the chopped onion to the same pan with residual olive oil. Stir the onions over medium heat until they are soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes.
After that, add a minced clove of garlic…
…and a bay leaf, and stir for another minute.
Add the red or white wine.
Add the lemon rind. Simmer over medium heat, until the wine has been reduced by half.
(Reducing by half ensures that the alcohol has burnt off.)
Add the tomato…
…and the fish stock…
…and the juices that will have leaked from the seared monkfish.
Simmer over medium heat util reduced by half.
Meanwhile, remove the ends of the runner beans, and boil them in salted water with a bit of baking soda for 10 minutes. Drain at the end of the cooking.
If the sauce has been reduced sufficiently, remove the bay leaf and lemon rind.
Make a slurry by mixing 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon cold water, and add this to the sauce.
Cook, stirring, until the sauce has bound. (If it is not thick enough, add more cornstarch slurry.) Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Put the reserved monkfish pieces into the sauce, and cover them with the sauce. Then cover than pan and turn off the heat. Allow the fish to cook in the residual heat of the sauce, 5 to 10 minutes. The cooking time depends on the size/thickness of the pieces.
Meanwhile, reheat the runner beans gently with a generous amount of good quality extra virgin olive oil.
Serve on preheated plates. Start with a ‘nest’ of runner beans, then put the monkfish on top. Bring the sauce back to a boil, then turn off the heat. Spoon the boiling hot sauce over the fish, and serve.
Lamb and asparagus with goat cheese sauce, a spectacular combination.