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

Salmon Wellington for a Quick Meal

December 1st, 2009

When you get home from a vacation and want something that feels healthy, but kind of eases you back into your normal routine, this is a good choice. We have just returned from a wonderful four days at Disney World with our Granddaughter and our extended family. There was lots of good food to eat and many quick snacks that were not so good, but they all kept us going while we navigated the complex acres that comprise Disney World.

On our way home we made a quick stop at the grocery store and picked up salmon, puff pastry, leeks, and green beans. The recipe for the Salmon Wellington came from one of my favorite magazines, Coastal Living. Whenever we feel we have overindulged, a fish dish always figures into our meal plans. My husband thought the puff pastry was a little rich for a week night meal until he tasted it with the salmon and decided that maybe even a Tuesday night was worthy of being celebrated.

The whole meal can be prepared in 40 minutes according to Coastal Living. The Salmon is served with roasted green beans which are cooked at the same time. With a meal like this, who needs takeout.


2 large leeks, white part only, thinly sliced and cleaned
2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
4 (5 to 6 ounce) skinless salmon fillets

Saute leeks in butter in a medium skillet over medium heat about 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in garlic, and cook 1 minute. Add wine; cook 5 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Remove from heat, and stir in lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper.

Roll out each pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface into a 12 inch square. Cut each in half, forming 4 (12-x6-inch) rectangles. Spoon 1/4 cup leek mixture lengthwise down the center of each rectangle. Sprinkle fillets evenly with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper; place fillets lenghtwise on top of leek mixture. Fold short sides of pastry over fillets. pinch togethet long sides of each pastry to seal. Place Wellingtons, seam side down, on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake at 425 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut each pastry diagonally in half using a serrated knife. Makes 4 servings.

Roasted Green Beans

Toss 1 pound trimmed green beans with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Arrange in a single layer in a shallow pan. Bake at 425 degrees, stirring once, 18 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp-tender. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to combine.

Whitefish with Lemon Vinaigrette

April 6th, 2009

This is the last post from Florida and it is appropriate because David caught sheepshead fish today. The fish dinner was inspired by Giada’s whitefish with lemon vinaigrette. This is such a satisfying combination. Radicchio and shallots are sauteed until wilted and then cannellini beans are added to fortify the mixture. The lemon and parsley vinaigrette lighten and intensify the sauteed fish. We have made this many times with tilapia and other mild fish, so it was a treat to actually make it with fresh caught fish. There is much to do before we leave tomorrow, so this is short and to the point. Here is Giada’s recipe.
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 large head radicchio (about 12 ounces), coarsely chopped
1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup fish broth ( I used chicken stock )
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 (5 to 6 ounce) whitefish fillets, such as tilapia
All-purpose flour, for dredging
Lemon Vinaigrette, recipe follows

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the radicchio and saute until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the beans and broth, and cook until the beans are heated through, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Season the radicchio mixture, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a 14-inch ( or 2 smaller ) nonstick frying pan over medium high heat. Sprinkle the fillets with salt and pepper. Dredge the fillets in flour to coat completely. Shake off the excess flour and fry 3 fillets in each pan until they are golden brown and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.
Spoon the radicchio mixture over the center of the plates. Top with the fillets. Drizzle the vinaigrette over and serve immediately.
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Blend the lemon juice, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with more salt and pepper.

Something Fishy

February 12th, 2009

My husband, David, likes fishing and motorcycles, and also occasionally likes to try his hand in the kitchen. Recently, when one of his riding buddies called to confirm their plans for Daytona Bike Week, Ron happened to mention that he had just enjoyed a delicious seafood corn chowder in a restaurant. The corn chowder had incorporated both salmon and smoked trout, and Ron loved it. That started the wheels turning in David’s head due to the happy coincidence that he had several smoked blue fish chilling in the fridge without a good plan for their ultimate use. When he broached his plan with me, I was less than enthusiastic because not only am I not a fan of smoked fish in general, I have an aversion to blue fish in particular. He agreed that if I let him experiment with a seafood corn chowder, he would prepare two versions….one with salmon only for me, and the other with both salmon and smoked blue fish for his exclusive consumption. So, today I am turning the blog over to David. I loved his Seafood Chowder.

A quick Google search for corn chowder yielded a very basic and simple recipe that served as a good starting point. It called for one can each of both creamed corn and whole kernel corn, diced potatoes, celery, and condensed milk. Instead of the condensed milk, I substituted Skim Plus milk and some half-and-half, and added onion, green pepper, jalepeno pepper, garlic, and a little butter and sherry to the mix. The results were quite tasty, although I admit to overdoing it a bit on the smoked fish in my batch. Penny’s batch, with salmon only, was pretty good, and I think if I had it to do over again (and I will), I wouldn’t put a whole smoked fish into the rather small pot that I made for myself. A little smoked blue fish goes a long way in a chowder. It can take the place of the bacon, or pancetta, or salt pork that some recipes call for, but it would probably require only two or three tablespoons to impart a nice smokey flavor to a whole pot of chowder – a whole smoked fish in the pot was a little overpowering.

I should also mention the toasted sourdough french baguette with olive oil and pepper that I made to go with the chowder. I make this toast several times a week these days and we have both become seriously addicted to it. The baguettes are readily available at the ubiquitous Publix grocery stores here in Florida, but when we head back to Lake Lure in the spring we will either have to do without (I foresee severe withdrawal symptoms) or learn to make them ourselves. The simple recipe for the toast is included below.


2 medium potatos, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced

1 small green pepper, diced

2 jalepeno peppers, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 can creamed corn
1 small package of frozen corn niblets
1 fresh salmon fillet (about 3/4 lb) skinned and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
Diced Smoked fish to taste (don’t overdue it, a little goes a long way, but it adds a nice smoky flavor, and takes the place of smoked bacon or fatback called for in many chowder recipes)
1/2 cup Skim Plus milk (or milk of your choice)
A little half-and-half, maybe 1/4 cup — add more or less milk and/or half-and-half to achieve the consistency you desire in the chowder. I wanted it kind of thick.
1 Tbs olive oil for sweating the vegetables
1 Tbs sherry (just for the nice flavor it imparts — leave it out or use more as you desire)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes for a little more kick
2 Tbs butter
salt and black pepper to taste


Saute the potatoes, celery, onion, green pepper, jalepeno pepper, and garlic in a little olive oil in a large pot over medium heat to soften them and give them flavor. Add enough water to just cover the vegetables and simmer for 10 minutes or until potatos are cooked. Drain the water and add the creamed corn and corn niblets to the pot, followed by the milk, half-and-half, sherry, butter, and red pepper flakes. Add the cubed salmon and smoked fish and then salt and black pepper to taste. Simmer for about 20 minutes to be sure the salmon is cooked. Serve and enjoy with any bread of your choice, but if you have access to sourdough french baguettes, try the toast below.

Sourdough French Baguette Preparation:

Slice a sourdough french baguette on a diagonal making slices about 1/2 inch thick
Arrange slices on a baking sheet
Liberally coat each slice with olive oil and rub the oil in
Top each slice with fresh ground black pepper to taste
Place in a toaster oven or under the broiler of an oven until nicely browned

Printable recipe – Seafood and corn chowder

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.