Potato-crusted halibut cheeks.

The trouble with the Internet is that you can never really be sure that what you’re being given is the truth. It’s easy to zoom in and capture the beauty of a plate of cookies without all the mess that’s around it, or to choose long strings of delicate, pretty words when one’s situation might be better described more … colourfully. On the one hand, I tell you about risotto because I love it, but on the other hand, I’m still paying off my student loans and I lost my job but still have to make rent and rice and chicken stock and cheese go a long way toward filling a belly; risotto never made anyone feel badly about her lot.

Most food blogs would have you believe that everything is idyllic, all the time – we write as if MFK Fisher would be on her way over with chilled rosé and a spare page in her next manuscript for our quiche or bread or pound cake. A certain amount of this is contrived, because the point is to get you to want to sit down with us. We want you to like us, and to tell your friends about us. This is marketing, to various degrees, but it is not inherently dishonest.

When I zoom my lens in on a plate of food, it’s both because I want you to see it and because I don’t want you to see that I keep spilling things on the tablecloth so it’s stained pretty much anywhere I’d put a plate down but my only other tablecloth is plaid and meant for Christmastime but it went into the dryer even though it wasn’t supposed to and is now misshapen and faded. And I accidentally ruined the finish on the table because I still don’t understand which cleaning product to use for which task, so I need a tablecloth, or place mats, or something.

I’m broke. But, like the banner says – well fed. And even though it’s always messy here and I screen my calls for bill collectors, I can climb out onto the roof of my building and eat dinner while the sky turns orange and then pink before the sun disappears behind the mountains. And sometimes I’m maudlin and feel sorry for myself, but then I find halibut cheeks – which are the cheapest and most delicious part of a halibut – to crust and fry, and a new brand of booze sends me a case of freebies and my favourite stretch pants are clean and folded and waiting for me.

Sometimes a visit to the garden the day after it’s rained yields the crispiest red and green lettuce and sorrel I’ve had all season, the kind of greens that only need oil and lemon for dressing.

I might not be selling a lifestyle (though if I was, it would be the opposite of GOOP’s which should count for something), but I hope I’m selling the idea that there is good in even these bleakest of days. The job will come, the bills will get paid. I will lose 20 pounds. But right now, we have a few pieces of fish, a salad of greens fresh from the ground, a partial view of the mountains and English Bay from the roof, and nothing lasting to complain about.

These are good. That is a piece of information from the Internet that you can be sure is true.

Potato-crusted halibut cheeks

(Serves two. If you can’t find cheeks, cubes of your local white fish will work just fine.)

  • Oil, such as grapeseed or canola
  • 1/2 lb. halibut cheeks
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour or cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup potato flakes (dry instant mashed potatoes)
  • Salt

In a pan over medium-high, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a heavy-bottomed (such as cast-iron) pan.

Meanwhile, mix flour and Old Bay. Dredge halibut cheeks in this. I find the most effective way to do this is to shake the flour mixture and cheeks in a paper or plastic bag – here in British Columbia, our BC Liquor Store bags are perfect for this.

Coat floured pieces of fish in beaten egg, then dredge on both sides with potato flakes. Fry for two to three minutes on each side, until golden and crispy. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot, with sauce for dipping. I prefer tartar sauce (with pretty much everything), but go with what you like.

Disclosure: I got free drinks.

If you’d like a summery beverage to go with your cheeky bites, American Vintage Hard Iced Tea is pretty all right. It’s got a true tea flavour, but with a not-subtle boozy punch. If you’re fond of any of the canned Jack Daniels lemonade drinks, you’d like these. I don’t know how reliable I can be about a review of free alcohol, because FREE ALCOHOL, but they are a kind company and sent me samples at the precise moment when the urge to drink my feelings was strongest. This endears me to them, and a result I encourage you to try their product if you enjoy coolers. They don’t have a website (what? Is it not 2012?), but here’s a fairly thorough review I can agree with.

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8 thoughts on “Potato-crusted halibut cheeks.

  1. We don’t have halibut cheeks here, or any part of the halibut, for that matter. We do, however, have succulent pond raised catfish, which should do nicely. And, free booze! That’s what you get for being a fancypants food writer! And your photos are lovely. One day mine will be,maybe.

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  2. This post is everything I love about your blog, Emily. To find the good in hard things, to laugh about them, to make life delicious—I find it all so inspiring! I agree with you about the over-the-top idealism/perfectionism of food blogging culture. It’s all the more refreshing, then, to read yours, and to see how all things have a way of working out.

    Such a beautiful rooftop view, too. Thanks for sharing with us!

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  3. Lovely and so true! And halibut cheeks – I remember when my dad started making them years back, I could never understand what part of the fish it was. Which it turns out is silly because … it’s the cheeks. They are delicious – our favorite way is grilled with a little melted butter and garlic over top – your recipe is on my to-try list now.

    And how do I get an invitation to have dinner on that roof? Free alcohol?

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  4. Jackie – thank you very much! Your comment made my week, and my god, I needed that.

    Hannah – You can never go wrong with melted butter and garlic – that sounds delicious, and like an excuse to break out the crusty bread. Come anytime! The free alcohol is trickier – still working out how to get that all the time.

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