A few years ago, a request for monkfish, cod or skate cheeks (they are sometimes referred to as knobs) might have elicited a slightly odd look from your fishmonger, but thanks to an increased demand for them from the restaurant industry, they are slightly easier to get hold of these days. They are reasonably priced, delicious and, most importantly, they are sustainably and ethically correct, as they are making use of a part of the fish which is often thrown away.
About 1 litre fish stock
450-500g monkfish cheeks, trimmed and halved if large
2 bulbs of fennel
2tbsp chopped parsley
2tbsp double cream
4 servings of mashed potato with about 50-60g butter mixed in
2tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
Quarter the fennel bulb then cut into 2cm chunks, separating the layers once cut. Bring the stock to the boil and cook the fennel for 6-7 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon; leave to cool on a plate. Add the monkfish cheeks and simmer for 2-3 minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and reserve the stock. Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour; continue stirring on a low heat for 30 seconds.
Gradually whisk in the hot stock, season, then simmer gently for 30-40 minutes, before adding the cream. The sauce should be quite thick by now; if not, continue cooking. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Mix the monkfish cheeks, fennel and parsley with the sauce, then transfer to a large pie dish or individual ones. Season the potato, then pipe it on to the pies and scatter the breadcrumbs over. Bake for 20-30 minutes until browned and the filling is hot.
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