You may have heard about grouper cheeks or read them on a menu of an upscale seafood restaurant. So, what are grouper cheeks? They are tiny meat pockets that are just below a grouper’s eyes. The cuts are delicious, but they are often overlooked. They’re not only tender, but they’re also sweet and packed with awesome flavor. They also have a firm texture and flaky flesh.
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How to Cook Grouper Cheeks
Now that you know what grouper cheeks are, here are some recipes we’re sure you’ll love:
Sautéed Grouper Cheeks
For this recipe, you’ll need:
- 1 lb. grouper cheeks
- 1 lemon (juiced)
- 1 tsp garlic (minced)
- ½ tsp salt
- Olive oil
- Herbs, preferably dill, sage, chives, and parsley
In a bowl, combine your lemon juice, salt, your choice of herbs, garlic, and a bit of olive oil. Add the whole pound of grouper cheeks into the bowl and make sure they are coated with your marinade. After you’ve spread the marinade over the meat, seal or cover with foil to allow the grouper cheeks to marinate for 30 mins.
On medium fire, preheat a skillet. Pour your marinade and the marinated meat from the bowl into the skillet. Cook the meat for 4 mins on each side. As soon as the meat reaches the level of doneness you prefer, you can turn off the fire. Be careful as you don’t want to overcook the grouper cheeks.
This grouper cheeks recipe is simple to prepare, but you can take it up a notch by serving with sides. In summer, we like corn in salt and butter or on the cob with some spices, especially if there are some from the garden that already need eating.
For a light, yet filling meal, you can also pair your sautéed grouper cheeks with bread and a green salad. If you prefer something that’s more filling, ditch the corn and substitute with baked potato instead.
Grouper Cheeks in White Wine Sauce
Another great way to learn how to cook red grouper cheeks is with this recipe that’s accompanied by strong flavors.
These are the ingredients:
- 1 lb. grouper cheeks
- Salt and pepper
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp freshly chopped chives
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- White wine
- Lemon wedges
- 1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
Dry the cheeks by patting each one with a paper towel. Lightly flour each week and season to taste.
In a large pan over medium to high heat, add olive oil and melt 2 tbsp of butter. Make sure you swirl the pan so the oil and butter are mixed. Place the cheeks into the pan and cook for two minutes or until it’s golden brown.
Flip the cheeks on the other side, then turn off the flame. Add a splash of wine, chopped chives, and a bit of lemon juice. Lastly, add the last tablespoon of butter and let it melt. Lightly stir then place. Serve immediately.
How to Fillet Grouper Cheeks
You can answer someone when you’re asked what are grouper cheeks but, do you know how to fillet them?
Unless you seek the help of a seafood chef, you’ll be forced into filleting the grouper’s cheeks yourself. If it’s your first time preparing a meal out of grouper cheeks, the filleting process can be very tricky.
To help with the task, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide on filleting grouper’s cheeks.
Step 1: After you’ve cleaned or washed the fish, put the tip of a filleting knife on the line that’s just right above the fish’s top lip.
Step 2: Begin making a cut using the fish’s jaw bone as the guide of your knife. Gently do so until you’ve taken out the cheek.
Step 3: The cheek at this point will hang from the fish by the skin. Place your thumb between the skin and meat, then pull the sliver of skin off using one hand as you pull the grouper’s cheek away or in the other direction from the skin.
Step 4: You’ll get a clean grouper’s cheek by cutting out the meat only when it’s almost detached from the skin.
Step 5: Flip the fish then repeat steps one to four with the other cheek of the fish.
You now know what are grouper cheeks and how to fillet them! Take note: you need to be careful when you choose the grouper fish to make cheek fillets from as you don’t want to get ciguatera poisoning.
Ciguatera poisoning is a result of eating fish that’s contaminated with toxins that are produced by algae around coral reefs. It’s very hard to tell whether or not a fish is contaminated because the toxins that cause the poisoning don’t change the fish’s taste, smell, and appearance.
The best way for you to determine if your fish has ciguatera is by filleting the fish yourself. If your fingers and palms become numb or tingly afterward, it’s most likely because the fish is contaminated.
Apart from learning what are grouper cheeks and some of the best grouper cheek recipes, we’ll also tell you why these particular parts of a grouper are special.
Grouper cheeks are sought-after as they are some of the sweetest and most delicate parts of a fish. Although you can just buy a fillet and then cut it into bite-sized pieces before cooking, it still won’t be the same.
The flesh in a grouper’s cheeks is sweeter and more succulent in comparison to all other cuts and parts of the fish. This is because the cheeks are overused muscles. As a result, they retain their shape better and they’re richer in flavor.
So, don’t miss out on enjoying the best part of a grouper and that’s its delicious set of cheeks! If your fish is big enough, its cheeks will produce meat that will be sufficient in making a hearty meal – or even a sandwich.
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