Halibut Cheeks in Alaska

June 18th, 2011

A delicacy indigenous to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, halibut cheeks are a treat.  The cheeks are cut from the area behind the halibut’s eyes and jaw and have a flavor and texture compared to sea scallops or lobster.  They vary in size from tiny morsels taken from small halibuts to pieces larger than your entire hand from fish such as the one below which weighed in at 160 pounds.

The guys went fishing while we were in Homer, Alaska.  They were allowed to catch two fish each and the fish they caught were this size; more in the 30 pound range.

Our fish was flash frozen and will be shipped home to us when we return to Lake Lure.  The bowl of fish cheek soup pictured above was what we had for dinner at a restaurant in Seward, Alaska.  It was flavored with garlic and lemon juice.  I am anxious to receive my halibut fillets and my four small cheeks.  It won’t be enough to make a soup or chowder, but we will savor them and use the rest of the halibut in many ways.

David and I celebrated our wedding anniversary while in Alaska.  I have to say that life has hardly ever been boring for us. Forgive my disheveled appearance.  Riding motorcycles is not good for the complexion or the hairdo.

Here are a few more pictures from our trip.

This is Cafe Cups in Homer, Alaska.  It is a funky little place with great food and wine.

One of the most awesome sights we saw was the Mendenhall Glacier in Junuea, Alaska.  It is a tongue of ice stretching over 12 miles from the Juneau Icefield to Mendenhall Lake.  It is around one-half mile wide and about 100 feet tall.

Tulin and me at the Mendenhall Glacier viewing area.

Notice the ice field behind us.  The temperature was about 60 degrees.

Of course I couldn’t resist buying a cookbook while I was here.  This recipe for halibut cheeks comes from Cooking Alaska’s Wild Halibut by Kathy Doogan.  You can substitute scallops or lobster.


2 strips bacon, cut crosswise into slivers about 1/4 inch wide
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium shallot, finely diced
1 tablespoon  rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound to 1 pound halibut cheeks
Salt and pepper

Heat a small non stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the bacon slivers and cook, stirring often, until bacon is browned and crisp.  Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon pieces to paper towels to drain; if necessary, pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of bacon fat.  Reduce heat to medium and add butter to bacon fat in skillet.  When butter has melted, add shallots and cook, stirring often, until they turn light brown and begin to caramelize, 4 to 5 minutes.  Add bacon pieces back to pan; stir and continue cooking another 1 to 2 minutes.  Stir in vinegar, sugar and parsley them remove relish from heat and keep warm.

Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Season halibut cheeks with salt and pepper then add to pan.  Cook 2 to 3 minutes then turn and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until cheeks are almost firm to the touch.  Do not overcook.  Place halibut cheeks on plates, spoon relish over fish and serve immediately.  Serves 2.

Printable recipe

14 responses to “Halibut Cheeks in Alaska”

  1. Pondside says:

    When we lived in norther Alberta a big treat was Pickerel cheek. The Great Dane was an avid fisherman in those days and we always had a freezer full of pickerel. It sounds like you’re having a great trip. Love that glacier!

  2. The fish they caught are quite impressive to me (I wouldn’t want to try to boat that giant one) and how wonderful that you’ll enjoy them when you return home. Alaska is beautiful and looks like it was worth the ride for David. Happy Anniversary to you both.

    We’ll miss you today at the blogger get-together. Larry shared the sweet note you wrote to everyone. Happy Father’s day to David.

  3. bellini says:

    What an amazing trip. The halibut at the end of the road would be the piece de resitance, it is my favourite!!!!

  4. It looks like you are having a wonderful time! Happy Anniversary! Kent and I will celebrate our 32nd on June 30th.

  5. Rita says:

    Happy Anniversary! What a fantstic post; loved all your photos.I havehard of haibut cheeks; how great to see this recipe. Enjoy!

  6. I can not wait to see what those fish turn into!

    Happy Anniversary. You know you look adorable!

    I have been following the trip sounds so perfect. Sadly, Jackie and I missed the meet up. Car trouble. SO next year for sure!

  7. Big Dude says:

    Looks like you guys are having such a great time. Except for your transportation, you are on my dream vacation and I look forward to your posts. Maybe next year for us.

  8. Barbara says:

    What a fabulous trip you’re having, Penny! I love reading about it and seeing your photos.
    Happy Anniversary!

  9. Mary says:

    Hi Penny – well what a great surprise this is to find you in Alaska, and on a bike to boot! Wouldn’t have known but for Pondside, which makes me guilty of keeping up with blogs lately! I have also been reading through Dave’s blog and seeing all the great places – I loved Alaska when there but did it on 4 wheels rather than 2 – you are a brave soul!

    Hope all continues to go smoothly – stay safe and have a fabulous time.
    Mary – A Breath of Fresh Air

    P.S. Happy anniversary too!

  10. Just found you by way of Pondside & am enjoying your Alaska postings. Our son lives in Wasilla & we have made numerous trips up there. Have also done the Arctic Circle but from the comfort of our diesel truck. You have my total respect making the trip on a bike! !When we have our halibut & salmon shipped home the results are always excellent.
    Wishing you a continuing safe & beautiful journey!

  11. What a wonderful adventure you are on with your husband, Penny! I saw Pondside’s blog post about your visit to her home.
    The size of the halibut in your photos is amazing!

  12. Virginia says:

    I adore fish and halibut is near the top of my list of favorites; while I’ve only heard a glimmer about halibut cheeks, I am now intrigued. I’m going to add your “halibut cheek” recipe to the others, most of which come from my favorite recipe club


  13. What a life you’ve got going on right now. I’m at home with a head cold. 🙂

  14. Jann says:

    Loving all the photos and especially, of the fish! My gosh!! What a catch!!!

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