We all get stuck in a weeknight routine, I know. I’ve heard the complaints — “I don’t know what to make and I don’t have the time to make it anyway.”
Maybe all you need is to take something familiar and give it a little tweak.
Enter pork jowls. In Italian it’s guanciale, and it’s sliced and cured in a manner similar to bacon. But it’s a deeper, richer almost gamey flavor that brings something different to your weeknight plate. Fry them up, toss them with some familiar ingredients and you’ll have a pasta that’s delicious on its own. Add some slices of easily-prepared monkfish and you can serve your loved ones something wonderfully unexpected.
Just be sure to maintain the mystery: don’t tell them how easy it was.
Pork Jowl Pasta with Roasted Monkfish
For the pasta sauce:
1/3 lbs. of sliced pork jowl
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 of a white onion, diced
1 Roma tomato, diced
4 big leaves of kale, ribs removed and sliced
1 handful of good Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
For the Monkfish, inspired in part by this Mark Bittman method:
1 approximately 2/3 pound monkfish fillet
1 tbsp. of good Dijon mustard
1 tsp. of paprika
Salt, pepper, olive oil
Begin with the sauce for the pasta. Slice the jowls very thickly (in about 2 inch pieces), and render over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, or until crisped up like bacon. This will produce prodigious quantities of grease, and that is good. Pour off any excess and reserve 2 tablespoons. Keep the rest, since you never know when you’ll need pork cheek fat. Add the garlic, onion, tomatoes and red pepper flakes, and soften for 8 or so minutes. Finally, add the kale and turn the heat to low.
Meanwhile, prepare the fish. Preheat your over to 400 degrees F. Mix the mustard with the paprika and brush the mixture all over the fish. Right before you put it in the oven, season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, or until the fish is done. Let it rest and then slice the fish into medallions.
Cook your pasta according to package directions. Add the drained pasta to the sauce and mix through. Add the reserved fat for shine, the cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix again.
Serve in shallow bowls with the fish atop the pasta. Have a delicious dinner.
Playlist included Heaven by Emeli Sandé.