May 27, 2012
Miso Halibut Cheeks
You may have noticed that I do not tend to post a lot of fish or seafood recipes, and when I do they are usually for prawns, which is hands-down the most common type of seafood cookery for me. There is a reason for this: When I was a child, I had an allergic/food sensitivity reaction to finned fish. Shellfish were fine, but rare in our household, so I learned to like them without any adverse effects intruding. For finned fish, however, I grew to hate even the smell in the air, raw or cooked, however fresh. I would try to hold my breath in disgust, as I angrily ate my fried egg while the rest of the family had fish. When I eventually grew out of the physiological reaction to fish, I had no idea how to cook it, and little desire to learn, because the smell was so off-putting.
Sushi was the thing that broke the barrier for me, in the late 1980s. I started with the predictable California rolls, and eventually worked up my courage to try the others. The Japanese preparations tended to control the objectionable fishiness quite excellently. From there, I found myself eating fish as part of elaborate tasting menus at places like (the now-defunct) Lumiere, where elegant little morsels of sablefish might be cooked with sake and maple foam, for example. Tiny portions just right for sampling and exploring, which opened the door to other cooked fish preparations. When I started ordering fish in fine dining restaurants during departmental lunches for work, it was a real eye-opener in terms of how skilled preparation and bright flavours can make all of the difference. I even learned to like fish and chips (although I am particular about what fish it is, preferring mild, creamy white fish).
So, finally, when I saw the Miso Cod recipe in Cook This Not That! Kitchen Survival Guide, I was intrigued. I prefer halibut to cod, so that's what I hand in mind when I went to my local fish monger, The Daily Catch. They had halibut fillet, no surprise, but they also had halibut cheeks, and I knew in a blazing flash that they would be perfect for this dish. Halibut cheeks are boneless, which is part of the appeal, but they also possess a sort of delicacy of texture that appeals to me.
The recipe also included the marinated cucumbers shown to the side of the fish, which were a simple preparation of salt, sugar, rice vinegar and chile flakes that I enjoyed, but found overly salty. The spinach and sesame salad (goma ae) was thrown together to use up some spinach.
Miso Halibut Cheeks
Adapted from Cook This Not That! Kitchen Survival Guide
4 medium halibut cheeks (about 4 oz. each)
1/2 cup white miso (shiro miso)
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons sake
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Combine the miso, mirin, sake, and sugar in a non-reactive bowl that is large enough to also hold the fish. Rinse and pat dry the halibut cheeks, and add them to the miso mixture, turning gently to ensure that each piece is well coated. Cover well, and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.
Preheat your broiler with a rack set at 15 cm (6 inches) below the flame, and prepare an edged baking sheet by lining it with foil and misting with cooking oil. Remove the halibut cheeks from the miso, and place, evenly spaced, on the prepared sheet. Brush a little extra miso mixture over the top of each cheek, to ensure it is evenly coated. Broil, watching carefully, for about 8 - 12 minutes, depending on your broiler, removing when the miso glaze begins to caramelize, and the fish begins to flake under gentle pressure. Garnish with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds.
Halibut cheeks may be a little pricy, depending on where you live, but fillet, such as in the original recipe, or any other mild, creamy white fish should work nicely - check out Ocean Wise for any other fishies you might want to use. My fish monger is an Ocean Wise partner, and only uses sustainable seafood, which is reassuring because I don't need to do in-shop analysis before I pick my fish.