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Skate Cheek Piccata and How Fish Cheeks Got a Gig.

We're excited to share our recipe for skate cheek piccata. But first, Chatham Harvesters wants to give you a glimpse into the history of fish cheeks in Chatham.

During the peak of 1970s and 80s ground fishing in Chatham, boatloads of haddock and cod were brought to the docks. Fishing boats typically had 2-3 crew members who baited hooks and lines on the way to the fishing grounds, spending long days setting and hauling gear.

On the return trip, many crew members would cut the cheeks from the fish heads. After arriving at the dock and finishing their packing, they would peddle their cheeks to the backdoors of Main Street restaurants for cash.

Fried cod or haddock cheeks soon gained a reputation as Chatham’s best-kept secret. Rarely seen on menus, they became an "if you know, you know" delicacy. They're deliciously sweet and delicate flavor remains legendary today.

In keeping with traditions and using what is l abdundant, locally caught and landed, Chatham Harvesters regularly process skate fish cheeks, ensuring that the whole fish is utilized, carrying on a well honed tradition.


Serves 4


  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided

  • 12 thinly sliced garlic cloves plus 2 smashed garlic cloves, divided

  • 1 cup fish stock

  • 1/4 cup white miso

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus 1 lemon, thinly sliced

  • 1/2 cup instant flour

  • 3/4 teaspoon granulated garlic

  • 4 (8-ounce) skate cheeks

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

  • 2 thyme sprigs, divided

  • 14 caper berries, whole or halved

  • 1 tablespoon drained capers

  • Flat-leaf parsley sprigs, for garnish

DIRECTIIONS Melt 1/2 cup of butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the sliced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the stock and miso until combined, then bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture is reduced to about 1 cup, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a processor or blender. Secure the lid, remove the center piece to allow steam to escape, and place a towel over the opening. Process until smooth, about 1 minute. Stir in the lemon juice and set aside.

On a plate, combine the flour and granulated garlic. Sprinkle salt on the skate cheeks and dredge them in the seasoned flour. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat until it begins to smoke. Add the lemon slices and cook until just browned, about 1 minute per side. Wipe the skillet clean.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cheeks and cook until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side. In the last minute of cooking, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter, 1 garlic clove, and 1 thyme sprig to the skillet, spooning the mixture over the fish. Discard the garlic and thyme, transfer the fish to a platter, and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining oil, fish, butter, garlic, and thyme. Add the caper berries, capers, and lemon slices to the skillet and toss until warmed, about 1 minute.

To serve, spoon the warm sauce onto 4 plates and top with the fish. Spoon the caper berries, capers, and lemon slices over each fillet, and garnish with parsley.


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