One of the things I've been hearing about and seeing a lot of lately are fresh fish cheeks. Cheeks? Fish have cheeks? Yup, apparently they do. The cheek of a fish is the tiny pocket of meat found just below the eye. In many cultures, the cheeks have always been considered the best and most tender meat of the fish. Those in the know consider these tasty little morsels a delicacy. Halibut cheeks are prized in the Pacific Northwest, while grouper cheeks are sought after along the Gulf Coast.
I'm a little embarrassed to say that, not only had I never eaten fish cheeks before, but until I started following the blogs, I had never seen nor heard of them either. I know, I know, I should be stripped of my Mario Batali garlic slicer. But, I swear on my KitchenAid mixer, I'll try to do better!
A few days later, I stopped by a local fish market looking for flounder, and what do you suppose I found? Fish cheeks!!! Grouper cheeks, to be exact! Can you believe it? What luck! I swear, it was kismet! Actually, I kinda, sorta thought for a fleeting moment that maybe this was a gesture from God because of all the sh*tty luck I've been having lately. Anyway, Divine Providence or not, those grouper cheeks were mine, mine, mine! I bought them all.
I prepared the fish very simply, much like Amy did. I seasoned it with salt, pepper and a dash of garlic powder. Then, I dusted it with a little flour and pan fried the cheeks in a mix of olive oil and butter. I served them over a mound of Israeli cous cous cooked with sauteed shallots, carrots and peas. You could use any combination of vegetables you like. I really like it with zucchini and red onion too. Whatever you have in the fridge is fine.
Pan Fried Grouper Cheeks
Season the fish with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Coat them in flour, patting off the excess. Set aside.
Heat oil and butter In a large skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Pan fry the cheeks on each side until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side.
Israeli Cous Cous with Sauteed Vegetables
4 tbsp butter, divided
Melt 2 tbsp butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Saute shallots and carrots until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and saute until tender.
Pour in water or broth and the rest of the butter. Bring to a boil. When boiling, lower heat, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed and cous cous is tender, about 20 minutes.
Fluff and serve.