Do you ever feel a bit odd eating animals’ various body parts? Pork belly, “prairie oysters” (Google it or contact me, if you really want to know…), or halibut cheeks make me visualize those particular bits of the anatomy.
In the case of halibut cheeks, I can picture a big halibut swimming with its cheeks all puffed out, as if it were about to blow out candles on a birthday cake. I am pretty sure that halibut usually do not have birthday cakes, with or without candles. The frosting would get all wet in the ocean…and how would the candles manage to stay lit?
Regardless of halibutian (halibutty? halibuttery? can there be no adjectival form of “halibut’?) birthday celebrations, I find fish cheeks most intriguing. The consistency is not the firm, rich flake of a halibut fillet but rather is somewhere between a sea scallop and a chicken thigh – meatier, a bit roapy (not in a bad way, however), and much more substantial.
Gratuitous kitty and wildlife interlude:
For the inspiration and the recipe…
We have a fishing boat which visits our island Saturday mornings from much bigger Salt Spring Island (it is relative – 10,000 people live over there, year-round). I always enjoy buying their salmon, dungeness crab, scallops, arctic char, and halibut. However, I had not recalled seeing halibut cheeks and decided to buy them. (For another preparation for halibut cheeks, visit my friend and neighbour’s excellent blog, Real Food From a Small Island, for her elegant classic preparation – en papillote – in parchment.) The friendly man and woman on the boat said that they are meatier than halibut and saute quickly.
So, with the halibut cheeks before me, I decided to use a French white wine shallot poach-saute technique. With a local British Columbia pinot gris and shallots from nearby Vancouver Island, I thought I could try another 100-mile diet-sort-of-meal – except for the lemon (I have yet to procure any of our neighbour’s lemons from his green house) and black pepper, it was very local, indeed, with parsley and chives from our deck-top garden, and potatoes and green peas from “up island”, as we say here (two growers who live “far” up north, about 20 minutes away).
So, if you do come across halibut cheeks, this is a fast, easy, and delightful summer meal…as long as you try not to imagine the halibut on its birthday.
Halibut Cheeks Poached in White Wine with Shallots, my creation, more or less, based on memories of previous poaching
8 ounces or 200 grams halibut cheeks
2 ounces unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 shallots, finely minced
1/2 cup dry white wine (BC pinot gris worked very well)
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
Black pepper and sea salt, to taste
1. On medium-high heat, add olive and butter to saute pan.
2. When melted, add minced shallots and saute for a few minutes until soft and fragrant.
3. Add white wine and halibut cheeks.
4. Saute, moving cheeks (the halibut’s that is) constantly for four or five minutes, just until the cheeks have a slightly firmer consistency, like a lightly poached chicken breast – it should be tender and firm but not tough and roapy.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Serve with chopped chives sprinkled all over.