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Halibut Cheeks--A Teleological Argument for the Existence of God

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It's halibut season here in Seattle, and it'd been awhile since I'd had any cheeks. Used to be these were throwaway food; now they're $20/lb (while the fillets are $22).

So Wahine and I got a couple pounds. Dang. I've eaten seafood all over the world, and halibut cheeks are damned near the perfect seafood, IMO. Sweet, like lobster and the best crab, ideal scallop-like tooth, deep flavor yet not oily. More of all of the above even compared to fillets of the same fish. The only fish that I think compares is Hawai'ian black ulua/buta gucci.

I think halibut cheeks sauteed in Amish butter and finished in Champagne lemon dill beurre blanc would be what I request of the warden the hour before the needle goes in.

Does anyone have a favorite prep of halibut cheeks that shows off the amazing gift that they are? I'm hallucinating right now imagining Cheek Salad Rolls, Cheek Ravioli, Cheek Cioppino. F@$k, I'd eat Cheek *Brownies*...

Aloha,
Kaleo

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  1. Ceviche

    Poke

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Great idea. Tomorrow will be Cook Island-style ika mata. Thank you!

    2. >>>
      I think halibut cheeks sauteed in Amish butter and finished in Champagne lemon dill beurre blanc would be what I request of the warden the hour before the needle goes in.
      <<<

      Timely post. I get the needle tomorrow night. The local fishmonger (yes, there's only one that I know of) sends out a weekly email of what he has, and halibut cheeks is on the list. I had heard Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern rave about cheeks but I've never had any. This sounds like a good recipe to get introduced to them.

      He does home delivery on Saturday so maybe I'll call first thing and see if he can fit me in an order.

      I'll bet fresh garlic scapes sautéed in butter would go very well with these.

      1. I love halibut cheeks, they are quite something. I like them simply sauteed in ghee with some lemon, after I cook I sprinkle on some maldon and freshly ground pepper.
        You get your cheeks at Mutual Fish or somewhere else? I got some there recently that were great. Think I only paid like $18 though.

        I gotta try some cheek Cioppino that sounds great.

        5 Replies
        1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

          Hi, EFGM:

          We got ours at Fresh Fish in Ballard. Mutual's a jaunt for us.

          Aloha,
          Kaleo

          1. re: kaleokahu

            Interesting. Never heard of that. I'm gonna give it a try soon, I'll have to bring a cooler, but I'll also get to stop at Paseos, woohoo!!

            Got a recipe for your Champagne lemon dill beurre blanc?
            Also, what is Amish butter, and where can I buy it (or the things I need to make it) in Seattle, I'm intrigued, and always searching for new delicious butters. I couldn't find out too much online about Amish butter.

            1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

              Here's an article from 2012 about butter that focuses on. Non-Amish butter:
              http://gnowfglins.com/2012/02/17/amis...

              1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                Hi, EFGM:

                For the beurre blanc:

                1 T minced shallot
                2 T fresh lemon juice
                2 T Champagne (you know what to do with the rest)
                8 T cold, unsalted butter in chunks
                kosher salt (to taste)
                white pepper (to taste)
                1 T minced fresh dill

                In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the shallot, lemon juice and Champagne. Reduce to 1/3 its original volume--should become slightly syruppy.

                Reduce heat to lowest setting, and whisk in the cold butter chunks one by one until melted. Season to taste. Remove from heat but keep warm. Mind the beurre while you cook the fish, so it does not break.

                Fish: Dry the room-temp cheeks thoroughly and lightly season with salt of choice. I like to air dry them for at least an hour, until a bit of pellicle forms.

                Into the saute pan of your choice, add grapeseed oil and unsalted butter in equal parts (about 1t each for a smallish pan, 1.5T each for a larger rondeau) and heat over medium heat until butter starts to froth.

                Working quickly and without crowding, arrange the cheeks in the pan, and cook 1-2 minutes per side. While still in the pan, squeeze a few drops of lemon juice over each piece. I like to see just the first hint of browning

                Remove cheeks from heat, whisk your dill into the beurre blanc, and spoon the beurre over the plated cheeks. You will probably have extra beurre, which I enjoy over blanched-then-grilled pencil asparagus alongside the cheeks.

                A neighbor recently turned me on to the Amish butter. I get it at Central Market in N. Seattle in 2-lb rolls. I like it better than any of the European butters I've tried, and it's cheaper, too--let me know if you agree. Ronnybrook butter from upstate NY is world-class, too, if you can find it.

                Aloha,
                Kaleo

                1. re: kaleokahu

                  Thanks Kaleo.
                  I'll have to try out your recipe next week, sounds amazing. I'm going to get some of that Amish butter too. I'll post back in here with results.

          2. Sashimi

            1. While I'll give you that halibut cheeks, like pork bellies and alcohol, are certainly fine culinary evidence of a higher power, I still can't help but smile at my wish that you had titled this thread "A Kaleological Argument . . . ."

              I've never had the luxury of an abundance of the treats. Not something you see that much from Jersey fish mongers. Thus, my tastings have been limited to the simple preps preferred by the formalists. I my heart though, I love imaginative experiments with such ingredients. Pan-seared and raw preps are wonderful, but the guy who first put cheese on a burger was a visionary!

              The ravioli prep seems like a gentle nudge towards pushing back the box flaps - maybe just a whole cheek, topped with a thin slice of jalepeno or habanero, in a big "pocket". Sauce with a cilantro-mint sorta "pesto"? (This would actually be great in a Vietnamese spring roll kinda assembly - fry the cheeks first?) Otherwise, maybe a more standard ravioli with some fungus inside and some cheese in the sauce.

              I've done "rolls" with scallops, tacos too. And both lobsters and monkfish make great nachos. Not really too big a big step for the cheeks to go in any of those directions.

              At bottom, if you make the brownies, I'll definitely try one. However, you may want to start with seared cheeks in a vanilla buerre blanc with dark cacao shavings first.

              1. As a literary contribution, here's a 1 page PDF of Amy Tan's Fish Cheeks:
                http://bit.ly/f14hch33k4

                [there are discussion questions too if you happen to teach 7th grade!!]

                1. I like them with simply sauteed and served with a mild curry oil-I had it in a restaurant and stole the idea :)

                  Goes great with any mild white fish.

                  1. See, "There is a God," 2,000 Reasons to Believe. I believe halibut is mentioned.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: beevod

                      Forgive me if I get into the 'weeds' with this topic.
                      IMO the best way to cook any fish cheek is to do so while it remains in the head. The reason is the flavour/juices from the bones surrounding the cheek/s add a depth of taste that can not be found in cheeks that have first been removed.
                      This holds true with cooking any fish/crustacean/shell fish.
                      Matter of fact it holds true for cooking any piece of meat. A steak will taste better if the bone has been left on.
                      A fresh scallop tastes infinitely better and has better texture if cooked in it's shell. Crab the same etc etc.
                      Any piece of fish that has be filleted and had the bones removed loses the flavour the bones give up.
                      Anyway.
                      I very lightly poach the well washed and patted dry whole head/s in ghee. The ghee I have already 'browned' beforehand and cooled.
                      Drizzle with fresh squeezed lemon.

                      Many moons ago I was selling fresh caught ling cod and rock cod from my boat at the government wharf in Ganges BC.
                      A huge white 140' plastic floating palace docks and the chef and his helper comes over to buy some fish.
                      I had been cleaning and removing the heads of the fish if a customer wanted me to at no extra charge. I had a tote full of fish heads and guts I was going to freeze and use as crab bait later in the year.
                      (The floating palace had a bunch of Japanese business men on board)
                      All the Japanese chef wanted to buy was the entire tote of fish heads.
                      I stupidly thought at the time what a dumb chef he was for only wanting what nobody else did.
                      Another life lesson.

                    2. On the Gulf Coast, we do not get fresh caught Halibut Cheeks, but Grouper Cheeks, especially the deep water Yellow Edge Grouper are one of my favs. A "Frutti de Mare" made with fresh Grouper Cheeks, a few local clams, and nice head-on Gulf Shrimp, served over linguine.
                      "Una cena estiva perfetta"....................