Skate Cheeks recipe with Chorizo, Peas Lemon and Parsley Linguini.
Updated: Jun 11
Skate cheeks… Near impossible to get and not many people would have had the opportunity. Unless you are blessed with an excellent fishmonger or you or your partner are a sea fisherman you will struggle to find them. In this recipe I paired them with some locally made and extremely delicious chorizo. If you love fish and chorizo then this is definitely the recipe for you!
What are Skate Cheeks?
Skate cheeks or ray cheeks are literally the cheek of the skate or more precisely the muscle that lies either side of the skates mouth. This pair of muscles is used to control an immensely powerful mouth that in turn is used to crush and chew the hardest of shellfish and the even tougher hardback crabs.. Affectionately known as ‘eyeballs’, this elusive cut of the fish was entirely new to me and if it wasn’t for a skilled fisherman preparing the fish they still would not be available (Dad used to do this for a living!). Another story passed down from my father was that when he was a very young fisherman (he went to sea from 15), when the fishing boats returned from a days fishing, they used to save the skate heads and give them to the old war veterans who used to wait on the quay. There was no market for skate cheeks even then, but the fishermen of the time preferred not to waste them and look after the old souls who fought in the war. A delicious and deserved bonus for the grateful veterans.
Skate cheeks have a fantastic texture, not like the wing of the skate, but more like a more delicate, giving scallop. There flavour is similar to skate, obviously, but a little more subtle. Even my partner (who is not a fan of skate or ray) will eat skate cheeks. They are simply.. Well, yummy!
How to Prepare Skate Cheeks
The reason that you do not see skate cheek very often is that it is simply a nightmare to take from the fish.
To remove the skate cheeks from the fish, you'll need a sharp knife and a cutting board. Here's how you can do it:
Place the skate fish on a clean cutting board with the belly side facing up.
Locate the cheeks, which are the fleshy portions of the fish located just behind the eyes on each side of the head.
Position your knife behind the eyes and make an angled cut downwards, following the natural contour of the fish's head. You want to cut towards the pectoral fin, which is where the cheek is located.
Continue cutting along the fish's head until you reach the pectoral fin, separating the cheek from the rest of the head. Repeat the process on the other side of the fish to remove the other cheek.
Once the cheeks are separated, you can trim off any excess skin or connective tissue if desired.
Usually the cheeks remain in the heads of most skate or ray and are returned to the sea along with the rest of the waste fish. Not this time!! I had 6 fish (12 cheeks) to cook and this is the recipe that I cooked with them.
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Skate Cheeks with Chorizo and Pea Linguini with Lemon and Parsley
12 Skate or Ray Cheeks
Sausage sized piece of Chorizo
2 small Shallot (Small dice)
Cup full of peas
Handful of dried Linguini (2/3rds of a pack)
Half a cup of flour
Some fish stock (cubed is fine, fresh is better)
Dessert Spoon of Low fat Crème Fraiche
Glass of White Wine
From the Garden:
Bunch of Parsley finely chopped (reserving some for garnish)
How to cook Skate Cheeks
First of all get a saucepan of water on for your pasta, season it with salt and add your fish stock – get this boiling.
Get a frying pan onto the heat and begin by chopping your chorizo into 1/4 cm rounds, when done add them to the pan on a gentle heat and begin to fry (you don’t need any olive oil at this point). Whilst the chorizo is frying cut your skate cheeks into halves or the bigger cheeks into thirds place them in a bowl, season and then sprinkle with flour making sure they are completely coated. Once the chorizo has browned on both sides, remove from the pan and place on a warm plate.
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Now add a little extra oil and turn up the heat, once hot put the fish into the pan and fry your Skate cheeks until golden brown. It's easy to cook skate cheeks, you have to remember that they are delicate more-sols and will overcook quickly. You want to cook them quick on the outside leaving the middle of the fish pieces slightly under cooked. A minute or two each side, test them with your finger and make sure that they still give a little to the touch. Really, it is just like cooking a scallop, fry them hard but very quickly. Aim for colour on the outside but be very careful not to overcook. Remove them from the pan and place on the warm plate alongside the chorizo.
Now fry your shallots, quick as you can but without browning them (add a little salt to the pan to prevent this happening). Once the shallots are translucent add the glass of wine and begin to reduce.
Meanwhile add your peas to the pasta (they’ll only take 1 minute) It’s all happening now so I hope your plates are warm!
To the frying pan add the juice of the whole Lemon, the chopped parsley and a ladle or two of the cooking stock from the pasta (enough to make a suitable amount of sauce) and stir in your crème fraiche - let the sauce bubble away – check the seasoning at this point. By now your pasta should be cooked (you’ll want your pasta al dente). Drain the pasta and peas and then add them to your sauce. Toss the pasta in the sauce and then stir in the chorizo and skate cheeks (be gentle with the cheeks and try and keep the pieces whole). Your ready to serve!! Tower the linguini in the centre of two plates making sure that equal amounts of chorizo, skate cheeks and peas on each plate, then dress the two plates in the sauce..
Finish with a little more parsley and serve immediately!
This is a lovely dish!! The skate cheeks are plump and rich enough to hold up to the chorizo, the sweet peas fill the mouth with a vegetable sweetness whilst the parsley and lemon juice cut through them all and unite all of the ingredients – delicious!
More Skate Cheek Recipes
Skate or ray cheeks can be served in many ways, but the cooking is largely the same. A very fast and hard fry. Skate cheeks are as versatile as scallops. Try serving them as a starter with a pea puree, pea shoots and some crusty bread, they work well with sweetcorn, you can tempura them or you could even poach them last minute in a bean stew or broth.
If you can’t get skate cheeks then you can use monkfish or something like that, but do try and if you are lucky enough to have a good fishmongers it could simply be a matter of him asking the fisherman to save them for you! Let me know what you think!
Still got to cook the wings of your skate? Check out my Thornback Meuniere with Nutmeg Mash recipe.