The Ribeira Sacra’s specific landscape is perfect for spectacular lookout points, or miradors, and many are signaled from the road. Here is just one that we followed, first by car, then by foot for about 10 minutes through the woods.
There is a small daily market in Monforte de Lemos. It is so small that we are quite the spectacle, so I don’t take photos. People seem to be wondering from where on earth these two newcomers have sprung. We stop at the fish monger who has not more than 10 fish at her stand, all whole and all superbly fresh. She is cordial, but seems slightly embarrassed to have to deal with these outsiders. She is the kid in class that the teacher singles out to answer a question, and I find it rather comic. We eye two monkfish, one really big and one really small. After a moment of hesitation, prolonging the embarrassing moment for the shy fish monger, we opt for the big one. With an able hand she prepares it, pulling off the skin, slicing here and there. I notice that she cleans the head too. When she places the head in a separate bag, Bastien tries to tell her that we don’t need it. Wrong move! She shoots him a look and we both understand her Galician: “You would waste the head of a monkfish?! You can make soups, sauces, etc…!” Bastien wants to maintain his no-fish head stance, but I jump in, nudging him in the side. “It’s fine.. we’ll take it. We have a freezer at the apartment.” (Luckily it stayed frozen at the bottom of a cooler during our 12-hour drive home. There is now a monkfish head in my freezer.)
That night, we found a recipe that seemed to be written for our sparse vacation kitchen: monkfish, oranges, chorizo, leeks, olive oil, and shallots. It was delicious, and so fresh. My snapshot does the dish no justice. You will find the recipe below.
The Spanish canned seafood aisle at the grocery store is like the French cheese aisle or the American ice cream aisle. So unavoidable that as a tourist you really must try something from it. One day we apprehensively tasted canned fried mussels in escabeche, or pickled sauce. Verdict: who would have known such a tasty mussel could come from a can?! We’re hooked.
Our rented vacation home at the Rio Sil is a lovely place, calm and quiet, with a picturesque view of the countryside.
The butcher at the market in Montforte was less shy than the fish monger, and seemed quite humored by us. The first time we went, he had only two cuts of meat on display, entire sides of beef. We went for a thick slice of steak. This was serious beef and Bastien barbecued it beautifully. There was also a man at the market who sold only turnip greens and eggs, and so we bought both. What a feast!
Bastien read about chuletas before heading over to spain. This is a cut of meat akin to the T-bone steak, which I have never seen in France. As much as his Spanish had advanced since our last visit to Spain, one must admit that there is still progress to be made. Bastien wanted very much to try chuletas in a restaurant, so we ordered some one day. The result was breaded pork chops, and we figured that “chuletas” is simply the word for “chops.” In another restaurant, the pork dish that we ordered turned out to be turnip green soup. We laughed a lot and it was delicious anyway.
Having failed at our attempt to order beef chuletas, one day, back at the market, Bastien asked our kind butcher for beef chuletas. The butcher went to his walk-in fridge and came out with a nice piece of meat. The conversation went as follows:
Bastien: “Chuletas???” (Pointing to the piece of meat in the butcher’s hands.)
Butcher: “Chuletas. Chuletas.” (Nodding his head “yes”.)
At night we grilled our chuletas and sided them with long beans and caramelized onions. Ah.. so good.
Meet Manolo. Bastien is a sucker for 4-legged friends, and this little guy, whom Bastien named “Manolo” was our welcome comity. He ran up and down the road with a slight limp whenever we arrived to the apartment and accompanied us to the car each time we left. What a little charmer!
Recipe for Monkfish Tail with Sautéed Leeks and Chorizo in Orange Sauce:
- 1 tail of monkfish, 700g
- 2 oranges, juiced
- 2 leeks
- 2 shallots
- olive oil
- 1 small chorizo for cooking, 100g
- salt, pepper
Place the monkfish in an oven dish. Mix the juice of one orange, olive oil, salt and pepper and pour over the monkfish. Allow to marinate while you preheat the oven to 200°C. Bake for 20-30 minutes, being careful not to overcook. Remove from oven, tent with foil, and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, on the stove over low heat, heat some olive oil with the sliced shallots. Add the sliced leeks and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the chorizo cut into small pieces and the juice of the second orange. Season with salt and pepper and cook at low heat for 20-30 minutes.
Serve together and enjoy!