Halibut Cheeks, Snapper Throats, and Other Unusual Fish and Game Meat
By Ed H. Edwards, SCI Lansing Chapter Member and avid hunter
“We will eat like kings!” -Jim Shockey
Salmon are always popular on Pacific Northwest restaurant menus but do not be surprised if you hear a local ask if any halibut cheeks are available.
Halibut “cheeks” are portions of muscle removed from the head and I’m not sure why it even exists. They are somewhat like a scallop in texture and shape. The cheek meat is a highly prized and quite pricey in restaurants.
I prepare all halibut cuts the same and see no reason for breading or sauces. Pat dry and lightly season with lemon pepper. Heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat and cook approximately two minutes per side. When done they will feel slightly firm, if hard you have over cooked and if soft it needs to be cooked a little longer.
A prized catch in the Gulf of Mexico is the Red Snapper. If you ask a local what his favorite fish is the answer will likely be RED SNAPPA! (Followed by a fist pump for good measure).
Red snapper is another great wildlife success story. When I first fished for them in the late 1970’s there were limited or no restrictions regarding the limit, size, and tackle. Nowadays in Alabama the regulations call for a minimum length of 16” with a season approximately six weeks long and snapper fishing Friday through Monday. The daily limit is two per person and circle hooks are mandatory. The average fish size increases every year since these restrictions have been in place.
Snapper “throat” is basically the front belly portion of the fish and is obtained by cutting behind the gills then back through the pectoral fins which are left attached. When cut free it is in the shape of a butterfly and some refer to them as “wings” rather than throats. This meat is moist and cooks up best using a batter of choice and frying.
Alligator are a blast to hunt and the tail meat is available in many seafood restaurants. In addition the balance can be processed into excellent lean sausage and the ribs are worth saving as well.
After a successful Florida boar and gator hunt we were picking up our meat and had the cooler nearly full of packaged meat and the processor asked if we wanted the ribs. I was hesitant but he encouraged taking them. I yielded to his recommendation and was glad I did!
Using the normal barbecue technique of a brown sugar rub then topped with Sweet Baby Rays after baking they came out nice. Small diameter bones covered with tender moist white meat that is delicious!
Spell out D-O-V-E and ask the average person what 1st comes up and the answer will probably be one of the following:
- The past tense of exiting a diving board
- A piece of chocolate candy
- A bar of soap
- A little gray bird
Ask an avid bird hunter who either lives in the Southern USA or has done some out of state/country hunts (which I have been very blessed to do) and the answer would be “a game bird that is not hard to hit but very easy to miss.”
A dove breast is a three to four bite piece of rich dark meat and is best wrapped in bacon and grilled. If you are fortunate it will be over wood mesquite coals in Mexico or mopani in Africa.
Never Snub a Snipe!
With a daily limit of 8 snipe in Michigan you would think they are plentiful and common in a waterfowler’s bag. Snipe are a migratory bird and even though I frequently hunt waterfowl (and never turn down a shoot at a snipe) and if I bag one a season I’m doing good. A survey of the previous season is taken when purchasing a Michigan waterfowl stamp and one of the questions is “did you take any snipe.” Every time I have answered yes the reply has always been something like “Really? That is a first.”
A snipe is a small bird not easy to collect. They fly fast, often high, and can and normally change directions on a dime. Just getting a shot can be a challenge, if you hear the snipe-snipe call they make flying get ready for action and hope you can get on it before it is gone.
Most folks consider snipe to be a camping myth and prank. Send kids out after dark to catch snipe by shining a flashlight into a pillowcase. One Friday afternoon in concluding a meeting at work we were discussing weekend plans. Most had football or soccer games to attend but I was going hunting. What for? I was asked and answered waterfowl ducks, geese, and possibly snipe.
Immediately I got a “no such thing” from a gal that was born to argue. A little bit of there is/there is not between us should have been stopped when another co-worked jumped in with “ I’m on the DNR website and they are a game bird” which should have resolved the conflict, but she walked away shaking her head.
I had a successful hunt including a snipe. After cleaning it I saved the head, wrapped it up and put it on her desk Monday morning. Not quite the hysterics of the horse head in the God Father movie but she never argued with me again!
Using your favorite recipe cook snipe with other waterfowl and like doves they yield a few bites of rich dark meat.
Dungeness Crab Omelets
Several years ago four of us rented a houseboat out of Juneau, Alaska that had been converted from a tug boat. The boat provided transportation, lodging, and cooking facilities in addition to a fishing platform.
We were fishing for three species of salmon, halibut, and various bottom fish. It was non-stop and the best fishing experience of my life.
The boat came with a crab trap and boiling pot. Every evening we would anchor in a protected bay and set the crab trap. The following morning the trap would contain starfish and octopus, but very few crabs. One night we hit the jackpot and had enough crabs to prepare for dinner and then some. I refrigerated the leftovers and made crab omelets the following day for lunch It was a unique and priceless meal!
Above are some of my favorite meals or memories. Others that come to mind include:
- ·French leeks fried in duck fat
- Guinea fowl with cream sauce
- Breaded warthog loin
- Fresh dorado cooked with lime juice topped with homemade salsa
Meals during or after an outdoor adventure is an important part of the experience. Enjoy them when ever you can!
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