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Reader Tip: Cooking Fish Cheeks, Collars, and Other Parts

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May 22, 2013

Reader Tip: Cooking Fish Cheeks, Collars, and Other Parts

By David Draper

A Wild Chef reader and frequent Food Fight Friday contributor sent in a few photos that, let’s just say it, looked less than appetizing. However, while they might not have been the best photos, both dishes sounded delicious and—more importantly—illustrated the point that there’s a lot more to eat on most fish then just the fillets.

He wrote:
I have been contemplating on whether to share these with you are not. These recipes/dishes are not strong on the appearance—or even the recipes. They are downright ugly. But after trying these on Saturday night, I found them to be simple yet sublime. I need to share these with other F&S readers. Having grown up on the Chesapeake Bay, these bring back memories of my childhood. I started off with two rockfish (striped bass) heads. I then proceeded to cut out the cheeks and next, after being inspired by Hank Shaw, I decided to take off the collars. Now I did not have any of the supplies for Hank’s recipe, so I improvised. (Who would have all of that stuff right after getting back from a fishing trip anyway?)

I decided to use the cheeks as an experiment in flavor profiles. On one cheek I dusted it lightly with seasoned salt. The next cheek got a dash of Creole seasoning. The third received a generous helping of Paul Prudhomme’s Salmon Magic seasoning for something sweet. Lastly, I decided to go traditional and use kosher salt and Old Bay seasoning on the last cheek. I grilled them up in butter and viola! After tasting them, I decided on the sweetness of Salmon Magic and the one-two punch of the Old Bay and kosher salt. I was NOT disappointed. The Salmon Magic was delicious, but to me the Old Bay and kosher salt just couldn’t be beat.

The collar is an overlooked piece of fish. And in the case of this rockfish, it was magic all on its own. The Old Bay, kosher salt, and butter made it taste like I was eating lump blue crab. It just can’t be beat.

Personally, I’ve had cheek meat from walleye, halibut, and even bluegills and will say it’s a delicious and often overlooked cut. I haven’t tried collars yet, but think I’ll save them the next time I’m lucky enough to get a salmon on the end of my line. Do any other Wild Chef readers take the time to save fish’s cheek meat or collars? What about other overlooked fish parts? Any fin eaters out there?

Comments (10)

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from Koldkut wrote 47 weeks 5 days ago

Cheeks and collars! The best tasting bites on the fish. Anything near the fins and bones tends to taste the best.

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from Neil J. Selbicky wrote 47 weeks 4 days ago

I eat the cheeks of even down to 8 inch trout. Love the crunchy, fried tips of the tails too. I can't seem to get my wife to enjoy these. She does enjoy hearing the old Ted Trueblood story. The one about where his buddies ate the best parts of their fried trout and left the heads and tails for Ted. When he finally showed up at camp and was invited to eat, he simply sat down to his plate and undisturbedly ate all of the fried heads and tails.

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from wildnw wrote 47 weeks 4 days ago

Halibut cheeks might well be the single tastiest piece of seafood around, I love pan-frying them as soon as possible after getting back to the dock with only a splash of lemon and oil. Tastes like the best scallop you've ever had.

When their from a decent sized fish, salmon collars and cheeks are great too.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from crosbychief wrote 47 weeks 4 days ago

OK, i have to ask....what are fish collars? I have been saving and cooking walleye cheeks for years...but collars sounds like something new to me-

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from Greenhead wrote 47 weeks 4 days ago

I love cheeks and collars, definitely the best parts of the fish. I also like to take salmon skin and fry it crisp and sprinkle it like pork cracklins. Its awesome.

Crosbychief, collars are that crescent-shaped bony piece behind the gills, but in front of the fillet. Basically, after you cut straight down to remove the fillet, take everything between that cut and the gills, fin and all. They contain some of the richest, most flavorful meat of the whole fish.

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from Half-of-two wrote 47 weeks 4 days ago

Ok, thanks for askin' Crosbychief...now I don't have to! That just leaves me with one question...when it comes to the cheeks, how do you cut 'em off the fish? I've heard about them for years, but have never tried them. Is there a preferred method of obtaining the tasty morsels?

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from coffeecupmike wrote 47 weeks 2 days ago

A restaurant I cooked at would sell out of Halibut Cheeks in the first hour of service and a another place would give yellow tail collar to VIPs

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from FishnFast wrote 47 weeks 2 days ago

To access the cheek meat, take your knife and cut around the meaty flesh with skin on behind the eye. Leave it attached at the eye. Take fingers and grab the meat and pup it off the skin since its attached still this is easy.
Looking at the fish it will be the fleshy tissue that's right next to the eye, and if you do cut it all out then just trim the skin off the meat like you are filleting it.
I have always taken the collar too, never knew to call it that....

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from DeanTX wrote 47 weeks 22 hours ago

Fish heads are pretty popular in Asian food. Can make a nice soup out of it.

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from Carl Huber wrote 46 weeks 5 days ago

Miso marinated Collars have long been a staple in Japanese Restaurants in NYC. Had them since I was a kid in the 60's.

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from wildnw wrote 47 weeks 4 days ago

Halibut cheeks might well be the single tastiest piece of seafood around, I love pan-frying them as soon as possible after getting back to the dock with only a splash of lemon and oil. Tastes like the best scallop you've ever had.

When their from a decent sized fish, salmon collars and cheeks are great too.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 47 weeks 5 days ago

Cheeks and collars! The best tasting bites on the fish. Anything near the fins and bones tends to taste the best.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Neil J. Selbicky wrote 47 weeks 4 days ago

I eat the cheeks of even down to 8 inch trout. Love the crunchy, fried tips of the tails too. I can't seem to get my wife to enjoy these. She does enjoy hearing the old Ted Trueblood story. The one about where his buddies ate the best parts of their fried trout and left the heads and tails for Ted. When he finally showed up at camp and was invited to eat, he simply sat down to his plate and undisturbedly ate all of the fried heads and tails.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from crosbychief wrote 47 weeks 4 days ago

OK, i have to ask....what are fish collars? I have been saving and cooking walleye cheeks for years...but collars sounds like something new to me-

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Greenhead wrote 47 weeks 4 days ago

I love cheeks and collars, definitely the best parts of the fish. I also like to take salmon skin and fry it crisp and sprinkle it like pork cracklins. Its awesome.

Crosbychief, collars are that crescent-shaped bony piece behind the gills, but in front of the fillet. Basically, after you cut straight down to remove the fillet, take everything between that cut and the gills, fin and all. They contain some of the richest, most flavorful meat of the whole fish.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Half-of-two wrote 47 weeks 4 days ago

Ok, thanks for askin' Crosbychief...now I don't have to! That just leaves me with one question...when it comes to the cheeks, how do you cut 'em off the fish? I've heard about them for years, but have never tried them. Is there a preferred method of obtaining the tasty morsels?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from coffeecupmike wrote 47 weeks 2 days ago

A restaurant I cooked at would sell out of Halibut Cheeks in the first hour of service and a another place would give yellow tail collar to VIPs

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FishnFast wrote 47 weeks 2 days ago

To access the cheek meat, take your knife and cut around the meaty flesh with skin on behind the eye. Leave it attached at the eye. Take fingers and grab the meat and pup it off the skin since its attached still this is easy.
Looking at the fish it will be the fleshy tissue that's right next to the eye, and if you do cut it all out then just trim the skin off the meat like you are filleting it.
I have always taken the collar too, never knew to call it that....

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from DeanTX wrote 47 weeks 22 hours ago

Fish heads are pretty popular in Asian food. Can make a nice soup out of it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Carl Huber wrote 46 weeks 5 days ago

Miso marinated Collars have long been a staple in Japanese Restaurants in NYC. Had them since I was a kid in the 60's.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment