It must have come from years of adolescence,keeping goldfish in a tank in my bedroom, but when I first saw cod cheeks on a menu, I raised an eyebrow. Surely there's not enough meat on a cod head to get anything worth cooking? How very wrong could I be, as I found out last week when I bought some. Never one to resist an unusual ingredient, and after my success with pigs' cheeks I was eager to experiment with the facial flesh of mammals and fish, morbid as it may sound. Not only is there enough meat, but in some cases cod cheeks are pretty sizeable, about as big as a decent scallop. They look a little bit like scallops,too.Perhaps more oyster than scallop - thick, white medallions of flesh,ideal for
sizzling in a very hot pan until caramelised on the outside, yet sweet and juicy in the centre. And the taste is a mild and sweet pleasing fishy one, made even more tasty through frying.The beauty of them is that they have no bones, so can be used in things like fishcakes without having to faff around picking through the meat.
I am a little unsure however, despite their goodness, of the ethical issues regarding cod cheeks - cod has a lot of sustainability problems. I am wondering if it's good to eat the cheeks because they're a by-product of the cod process, and would be going in the bin if we didn't eat them (there is still a demand for cod, like it or not, and I suppose we may as well make the most of the whole fish if we're going to be catching it)...or if I should stop buying them and decrease demand for this endangered fish. Any ideas?
As for recipes, the best are the simplest.You can treat cod cheeks pretty much the same as any other when you’re cooking them.The best combination perhaps being with bacon and a tomato sauce.You will need about 300g cod cheeks for two, 5 or 6 each depending on their size.Now it’s time to throw your cheeks into your frying pan. Keep them there until one side turns golden brown, then flip to achieve the same effect on the other. The resulting meal is one of perfect texture variation, a crisp crunch covering up soft, flavoursome meat that comes apart easily in your mouth, topped off with the juicy, salt burst of the bacon and the contrast of the sweet tomato sauce.
In spite of their roots as the throwaway parts of the cod, cod cheeks have become a delicacy.Cod cheeks exemplify a classic, poor man’s recipe gone haute, a once cast-aside organ playing dress-up.
Cod cheeks with bacon and tomato
Finely chop a small onion and a medium size red chilli,de~seeded.Cut 150g of smoked bacon into small dice, each piece measuring roughly 2cm. Warm 2 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan, add the onion and bacon and let it cook over a moderate heat, stirring regularly, until the fat starts to turn a translucent gold.add the chilli and continue cooking for a couple of minutes.
Pull the leaves from 3 sprigs of thyme or lemon thyme and add them to the pancetta. Cut 2 large tomatoes into small dice and add to the bacon. Continue cooking, stirring regularly, and then add 300g of cod cheeks.
Roughly chop the leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs of coriander and stir in together with a light seasoning of salt and black pepper. Continue cooking for 3 or 4 minutes until the cheeks are cooked and the sauce is thick and brick red. Serve immediately.