I first learned how delicious chorizo sausage and firm-fleshed white fish were together when I was 15 years old. It was at Le Bernardin, Eric Ripert’s bastion of seafood done to perfection, and I, a summer intern forced to borrow a suit jacket from my uncle to meet the strict dress code.
It was my “going away” lunch, my last day as a Manhattan intern before I returned Upstate for my sophomore year of high school. I heard of Le Bernardin only through the high 20s ratings in the outdated Zagat guide I pored over for during the weeks leading up to my last day.
I didn’t know the name Eric Ripert, I was still squeamish about raw clams and oysters and I thought lobsters were overrated.
I did know what Michelin stars were and I knew Le Bernardin received three stars, a rating only five other restaurants in New York City and one dozen nationwide received.
With nothing to lose, I suggested it and a few days later, we had reservations. I compared it to Thomas Keller’s Per Se, which had opened the year earlier. The $200+ price tag made the $50 or so lunch at Le Bernardin look like a bargain. (Note: The Le Bernardin lunch is now $87.)
The lunch started that warm August afternoon with a progression of fluke ceviche, one of my first dabbles into the world of raw seafood.
Then came the fish with the chorizo sauce. I believe it was skate, another aesthetically challenged fish. The sauce was more of an emulsion, with nary a speck to take away from the silken perfection. The skate, characteristically fanned out across the plate, had just the right about of firmness and large flake that stood up to the smoky sauce.
There was a third course sandwiched in there somewhere, but I cannot remember if it was dessert, or more seafood. Either way, I knew I was happy.
Braised Monkfish with Chorizo and Tomato
Inspired by Le Bernardin
- 3/4 pound monkfish, cut into four equal pieces.
- 6 ounces Spanish chorizo sausage. (What’s the difference between Spanish and Mexican chorizo?)
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced.
- 2 cloves garlic, minced.
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley, loosely packed.
- 1 cup tomato broth or tomato juice.
- 4 tablespoons butter.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided.
- 1 teaspoon Spanish or Hungarian papr ika.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- Heat 12-inch stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Add onions and chorizo and cook until onions are soft and fat is rendered from sausage.
- After 10 minutes, add garlic. I used two cloves of Trader Joe’s Black Garlic (which is delicious). If you have raw garlic, use one large clove or two small cloves instead.
- When garlic is fragrant, remove from pan heat and set aside.
- Pat monkfish loin dry and cut into four pieces, making sure the skin and membrane are removed. (If not, watch this).
- Season monkfish with salt and pepper.
- Add oil and return the pan to the heat. When you see a few light wisps of smoke, add fish.
- Cook until browned, about 90 seconds on each side.
- Add sausage, onion and garlic mixture to the pan, as well as tomato broth or juice, butter and parsley. Stir to combine and to melt the butter. If you have a bottle of white wine open (as you always should) add a splash. I was drinking a 2013 Ravines Gewurztraminer.
- Cover and cook until fish is flaky and can be easily cut, about five minutes.
- Taste sauce, add salt or pepper if needed and serve, spooning sauce over the fish.