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Getting Cheeky with Grouper

One of best things about food blogging, besides getting to meet other bloggers from all over the world, is discovering all kinds of new foods and great ways to prepare them. In my blog travels I have learned so much. The talent out there is truly humbling!

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 [1]. But, I swear on my KitchenAid mixer [2], I’ll try to do better!

About a week ago, I was scrolling down in my Google Reader, when something caught my attention. Amy over at Nook & Pantry [3]had written a post about Halibut Cheeks on Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes with Chive Oil [4]. Oooh! I clicked to read it and immediately began to drool all over my keyboard! Those succulent nuggets of crispy, golden cheeks called out to me. Of course, I knew that my chances of ever having an opportunity to actually taste them were pretty slim. Like I said before, I’ve never seen any kind of fish cheeks around here.

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.

The verdict? It was fabulous! Those grouper cheeks were flaky, sweet and buttery, just like I knew they would be. The cous cous was the perfect unassuming little backdrop for them. From now on, I’ll definitely be on the lookout for any kind of fish cheeks I can find. And, if I ever do find them again, I’m going to grab them!

Pan Fried Grouper Cheeks

1 1/2 lb grouper cheeks
Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
1/3 cup flour
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp olive oil
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
1 large shallot, diced
1 carrot diced
1 cup frozen baby peas (or any vegetable you like, diced)
2 cups dried Israeli cous cous
2 cups water or chicken stock
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.


Add cous cous and saute with vegetables about 1 minute.
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.


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