The culinary highlights as well as the geography of Bordeaux are very diverse. The wine is the star of the area but the local cuisine deserves just as much attention. The region is partially bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Garonne River, making fresh and salt water fish major staples of the local fare. The bustling port Bordeaux is the principal city of the region and the name of the famous local wine. Bordeaux wine has been produced since the eighth century and now thrives with 13,000 growers producing 850 million bottles per year. The town is known for its beauty and is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site as “an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble” of the 18th century. Victor Hugo stated of its beauty “take Versailles, add Antwerp, and you have Bordeaux”.
The Bordeaux region is known for its seafood from the Bay of Biscay and the Garonne River, heritage lamb and cow breeds from the Pyrenees as well as high quality free range chickens, turkeys, geese, and duck. With the exception of lighter seafood dishes like white fish in butter and stuffed squid, the food tends to be very heavy with some of the specialties being Foie gras, or fattened goose or duck liver, pates, terrines, and confits.
The dish featured here is inspired by the ingredients in season and the lightness of the flavors. It’s not quite cold enough yet to eat hearty, heavy autumn meals every night so this is a perfect dish for a balanced repertoire. It is an adaptation of a recipe from Chef Philippe Techoire who owns Chez Philippe in Bordeaux. Often called “Poor man’s lobster”, Monkfish has a delightful almost sweet flavor that is complimented by the sweetness of the grapes and Sauternes, a dessert wine from the region.
Monkfish with Grapes
4 small shallots, sliced
2 C. Fish stock, preferably heated with shrimp shells for 10 minutes, drained
1 375 ml. bottle of Sauternes
4 4 oz. filets of monkfish
6 cremini mushrooms
8 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
50 grapes, halved , red or white, Muscat, Champagne, etc.
Salt to taste
Heat stock with ½ C. of the wine to a simmer, add the fish and poach partially covered in a deep medium skillet for 3 minutes, turning once. Take out the fish reserving the liquid and keep warm. Add rest of the wine and boil down until liquid coats the back of a spoon. Add shallots and mushrooms and cook until shallots are soft and most of the liquid has cooked out of the mushrooms. Pick the shallots and mushrooms out with a slotted spoon, add to the fish and continue boiling the sauce until it reaches almost a syrupy consistency. Remove the skillet from heat and rapidly whisk in the butter, one piece at a time until incorporated. Add lemon juice, grapes, and salt to taste. Heat until warmed through, about a minute, spoon over the fish and vegetables and enjoy!