Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Halibut Cheeks on Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes with Chive Oil

Halibut Cheek on Mashed Yukon Gold with Chive Oil
Last Friday Steven and I visited my favorite place in Seattle, Pike Place Market. We don't go there very often so I took the opportunity to splurge on all kinds of goodies. First we hit up World Spice Merchants, which is in my opinion Seattle's best spice house. If you live in the area and haven't been there you really owe it to yourself to go. They ground my allspice when I ordered it so it was as fresh as can be. Who knows how long that preground allspice has been sitting on that supermarket shelf? Next we perused the produce stands where I splurged on one, yes just one, blood orange. Along the way we tried some 25 year aged balsamic vinegar and some fig balsamic (both of which were simply amazing). We sampled some artisan chocolate pasta that you could eat dry and uncooked. Then off to the butcher for veal shanks ($12.90 a pound, ouch). Finally to the fishmonger, where the selection of seafood is just overwhelming: scallops the size of your palm, crimson fillets of king salmon, and fresh wild-caught halibut cheeks. At $16.99 a pound, there was definitely some hesitation, but I thought what the heck, it's still cheaper than dining out, so I got half a pound.

For the Chinese, the cheek is the most coveted part of the fish, prized for its sweet flavor and tenderness. Chopsticks gently pry this delicacy out from the cavity below the eyes and it is then offered to the guest of honor. The cheek of a typical steamed fish is a tiny morsel about the size of a raisin. However, the ginormous halibut will yield a behemoth of a cheek that are almost the size of a deck of playing cards. Eating a plate of only fish cheeks? It sounds too good to be true, almost wrong... yet so right.

I wanted to showcase the fish cheeks amazing flavor and texture so it required very little dressing up. This beautiful piece of fish requires no fancy sauce, just a little salt and pepper.The buttery taste of yukon golds pairs perfectly with the buttery fish. (I think the best mashed potatoes are made with yukon golds, russets are too bland and boring). The potatoes are topped with a little chive oil for the tiniest oniony kick and finally, a squeeze of lemon juice on the cheeks provides the perfect acidic note to counter the richness of the fish and potatoes.

Oh and what did Steven say?

"Hey guess what?" "We're eating haliBUTTCHEEKS. lol."

Halibut Cheeks with Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes with Chive Oil

1/2 lb halibut cheeks
Salt and pepper
Roughly 2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp Butter

Mashed Yukon Golds
1 lb Yukon Gold Potatoes
3 Tbsp butter, cut into 3 pieces
Salt and pepper
(optional: 1/2 tsp lemon zest for lemon scented mashed potatoes)

Chive Oil
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
2 Tbsp olive oil (or more)

Lemon wedges for serving

First make the chive oil, finely mince the chives and mix with olive oil and set aside to infuse.

Scrub the potatoes and dig out any emerging roots. Leave the potatoes whole and place them in a saucepan and fill with about half an inch of water. Simmer until they can be easily pierced with a knife, about 15 - 25 minutes depending on the size of your potatoes.

Leave the heat on. After all the potatoes are tender (smaller potatoes will require less time than the larger potatoes), peel the potatoes, then put them through a potato ricer, a food mill using the coarse disc, or mash with a potato masher. A ricer or food mill will produce the fluffiest potatoes. Rice the potatoes back into or mash them directly in the hot pot back on heat for a minute to dry out the potatoes. Then using a rubber spatula, fold in 3 tablespoons of butter and season with salt and pepper (optional ingredient: add some lemon zest for lemon scented potatoes). Keep warm until serving.

Season the cheeks with a little salt and pepper then dredge them in flour, shaking off the excess. The cheeks cook very quickly, like scallops, and will only take about minute or two per side. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat heat. When the foaming stops, add the cheeks and cook until the first side is golden brown, 1 - 2 minutes. Flip over and cook the second side until golden brown, 1 - 2 minutes.

Place a mound of mashed potatoes on the plate, spoon some chive oil on top, and place the cheeks ontop of the mashed potatoes and squeeze some lemon juice on top. Serve immediately.


Anonymous said...

Wow, those are some big cheeks!$16.99 a pound for card deck size buttery goodness... it totally looks worth it. Delicious!

Peabody said...

Oh yum! I love halibut cheeks. They are soo buttery. I always cart down my little cooler and load up when I make the trek down to Pike's. I make sure I always get some spices. Some cheese curds. Some fish. And some mini doughnuts(I love those stupid things!)

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

You are so lucky to have the wonderful markets nearby. I can't remember seeing halibut cheeks at any of our local fish markets, except at the Asian supermarket. Your recipe looks lovely, and totally worth the cost.

Patricia Scarpin said...

This dish looks delicious, Amy, I love fish!
And that balsamic vinegar sounds interesting, too!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Years ago I remember having cod tongues which in fact are just their cheeks. They are very tender and delicious from what I remember.I will bookmark this recipe in case I ever see any around never know:D

Veron said...

That looks so incredibly yummy! I wish we had a place like Pike here in Richmond, VA.

Xiaoyi said...

My first visit to your blog. Your recopies look simple and delicious! I am so glad I found Luo Bo Gao entry, I love that dish and always want to learn how to make it. :)

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Whoa. Still, I don't know if I could spend $16.99 a pound. Yours looks gorgeous though.

And just one blood orange? I take it they're not $1/lb like here. I think that should be #102 on your list. Visit SoCal before Med school. ;)

Susan @ SGCC said...

Amy, those look soooo good! I have heard a lot about the "cheek" of the fish, but I've never seen any around here. Are they ever called something else, or am I just SOL?

test it comm said...

That looks good. Nice and simple and tasty. I just tried halibut and really enjoyed it.

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Unknown said...

omg my brother told me about this and i was like halibut big? WHAT? OMG I WANT!! hehehe.

Amy said...

Chuck - There was so delicious, definitely worth it as a rare treat. :)

Peabody - OMG we LOVE those little donuts. Ah the cinnamon sugar, the grease stained paper bag... mmm! But the stand was closed when we went. :( *sigh* was so sad.

Lydia - We're so lucky to have such wonderful farmers markets and fresh seafood. It's what I love most about Seattle. :)

Patricia - The balsamic was sooo sweet and thick, only slightly acidic. It was delish.

Bellini - Cod tongue/cheek? Sounds good. :)

Veron - Thanks! I adore Pike Place!

xiaoyi - Thanks! Enjoy!

WC - *sigh* I remember reading about the $1/lb blood oranges. Mine was $4/lb... $1.50 for a single orange. Ouch... I totally jealous of that meyer lemon tree your uncle has too. :)

Susan - Hm I think they are usually called the cheek. If you can find a good fishmonger who's selling halibut, maybe you can ask him for a special request. :)

Kevin - The halibut cheek is especially delish. I bet you'll love it.

Cooking - Thanks for visiting!

Bettina - Too bad you didn't stay longer for spring break. Next time you're in town we'll get some more.

Nina Timm said...

I am not a big fish eater, but this dish had me have second thoughts - light and yummee.

Passionate Eater said...

OMGoodness Amy, you killed a part of me when you described how the fish cheek is the best part of the fish. Your words are better than honey!

Susan @ SGCC said...

Amy, I am so psyched! I stopped in at my fish market looking for flounder and they had GROUPER CHEEKS!!! I've never, ever seen them there before. I bought all they had and I'm making them tonight. If they turn out good, I'll post about them. I can't wait!

Seattle Tall Poppy said...

YUM! I adore halibut cheeks! This looks delish. Thanks for the inspiration.


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