Several years ago I went on a cruise with about 20 friends. In one of the ports in France 4 of us wander off to the side streets, away from the tourist crowds. On one of those back streets, we found a cute little restaurant/bar that was an old nunnery I think. Anyway, they had a lunch special; starter, main and dessert with a glass of wine for 12 Euro if I remember correctly. The meal was amazing! One of the options for the main course was a white fish in a cheese sauce with rice. It still resonates with me after all these years and I’ve been trying ever since to recreate it.
Part of the problem, I’m sure, is I don’t have access to the same ingredients that are available in France. You know, the FDA is fussy about import cheese because it could kill you or something. Anyway, this is as close as I’ve been able to come so far but this recipe is still a work in progress. Now, this makes more cheese sauce than you probably need but extra is never a bad thing. It goes well on top of broccoli FYI. Enjoy!
Fish in Cheese Sauce
- 2 – 4 fillets of fish (I use Halibut)
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1/2 cup grated fontina cheese*
- 1/2 cup sharp cheddar (or 1 cup if you don’t have the next cheese)
- 1/2 cup Cougar Gold or Beechers Flagship (sorry this is a PNW cheese mostly)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (French or Sauvignon Blanc is best)
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- Salt and Pepper to taste
In a medium pot, I use my Le Creuset Dutch Oven, melt the butter on low temperature. Once melted turn the heat up to medium-high and add the flour, whisking constantly. Cook for at least 2 minutes, you want to get rid of the flour taste. Now the next part is tricky and you need to be prepared. Have the wine and milk close at hand. Slowly, whisking fast the wine into the flour/butter. It will steam up and start to thicken fast. That’s why you want everything on hand. Immediately start slowly adding the milk. The idea here is to make it smooth and thick but not lumpy. If you add it too fast or to slow you can get a mess.
Once you have the milk incorporated turn it down to medium-low and add the fontina. Stir until it pretty much melted, this is the base of the sauce and what makes it creamy. Now add the rest of the cheese and stir until it’s melted. Salt and Pepper to taste.
So for the fish. Cooking fish can be hard. It is so easy to over-cook. If you’re comfortable with fish, you shouldn’t have a problem. I, personally, use my Anova Sous Vide . It guarantees that it will never be overcooked. I cook it up to 120 degrees for 45 minutes. Then a quick sear in a hot skillet for about 1 minute on each side. Pour the cheese sauce over and serve with rice (optional).
*If you don’t have fontina on hand or can’t find it I’ve used velveeta. Not the best but it’ll do in a pince.