Anthony Flinn’s Warm Smoked Cod Cheeks with Cockerels’ Crests and Chicken Popcorn

Anthony Flinn

This is a recipe for the intrepid food explorers amongst us…it’s also a very tasty and rewarding dish, however, be warned, it requires skill and attention so it’s probably best suited to the more experienced cooks out there that are seeking a challenge. (For a more simple recipe for cooking cod cheeks check out Cod Cheeks in Beer Batter)

Firstly, what exactly are Cod Cheeks?:
Basically, cod cheeks are exactly what you’d expect them to be – they are chunks of tender fish taken from the jaws of the cod. Cod cheeks were somewhat of a delicacy for fisherman and stories say that fishermen used to eat the cheeks of the fish from their ctach themselves, and then sell the rest of the fish. Cod cheeks can be cooked in a variety of ways, but are most commonly cooked breaded or fried.

This recipe is a unique take on cooking with cod cheeks from the chef Anthony Flinn, who explains how to cook smoked cod cheeks served with Cockerels’ Crests and Chicken Popcorn. If you want to simplify this recipe, feel free to remove the cockerel’s crests, as you may only find these available in more specialist butchers.

Ingredients Needed for the cockerels’ crests

  • 4 cockerels’ crests (available from some butchers)
  • salt
  • 200ml/7¼fl oz duck fat

Ingredients for the chicken popcorn

  • 100g/4oz chicken skin
  • 50g/2oz popping corn kernels
  • 50g/2oz sugar
  • 25ml/1fl oz water

Ingredients for the mozzarella mousse:

  • 100ml/3½fl oz double cream
  • 2 leaves gelatine
  • 250g/9oz mozzarella
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for the mozzarella ‘smoke bombs’:

  • 8 mini mozzarella balls
  • smoke-filled foam gun
  • 2 NO2 chargers

Ingredients for the pistachio praline

  • 150g/5oz unsalted pistachios, out of their shells
  • 25g/1oz rapeseed oil
  • salt, to taste

Ingredients for the smoked cod cheeks

  • 4 skinned smoked cod cheeks (trim off any excess fat or skin) (cod cheeks are available from specialist fishmongers and Anthony smoked them himself)
  • 100g/4oz butter

To serve:

  • 400ml/14½fl oz jus or concentrated chicken stock
  • unsalted pistachios, grated
  • pea shoots
  • edible red amaranth

Cooking Instructions:
1. For the cockerels’ crests, place the crests into a pan of boiling water. Blanch for 30 seconds and then transfer to a bowl of iced cold water. Peel off the outer membrane.
2. Place the crests on a plate and sprinkle with salt. Cover and leave in the fridge for ten hours.
3. The next day, wash off the salt under running cold water and place the crests in an ovenproof dish. Preheat the oven to 110C/230F/Gas ¼. Cover with the duck fat and transfer to the oven to cook for 2½ hours.
4. After 2½ hours, carefully remove the crests from the duck fat and transfer to the fridge to chill.
5. For the chicken popcorn, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and place the chicken skin on a baking tray.
6. Bake the chicken skin in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until crisp.
7. Meanwhile, place the popping corn kernels in a pan with a little oil over a medium heat. Fry until all the corns have popped.
8. Mix the sugar and water together. Boil to 110C/230F, using a sugar thermometer to monitor the temperature. Pour the boiled water and sugar evenly over the popped corn.
9. Chop the chicken skin very finely and sprinkle the skin over the corn. Mix well to cover the corn fully.
10. For the mozzarella mousse, warm the cream in a pan. Dissolve the gelatine in the cream and stir thoroughly. Pour over the mozzarella and blend with a hand blender to a smooth paste. Set in the fridge.
11. For the mozzarella ‘smoke bombs’, melt the mini mozzarella balls in a bowl in the microwave for eight seconds on HIGH, then stir to make a paste. Place a quarter of the mixture over the end of the foam gun and fill with smoke. Pinch the end to trap the smoke in and trim off any excess. Repeat with the remaining mozzarella to make four ‘smoke bombs’, reheating the cheese to melt if necessary.
12. For the pistachio praline, blend all the pistachio praline ingredients together in a blender until smooth.
13. For the smoked cod cheeks, heat almost all of the butter in a pan and add the smoked cod cheeks. Spoon the butter over the cheeks until warmed through.
14. To serve, pour the jus into a small saucepan, add the cockerels’ crests and warm through over a low heat. Rub the mozzarella balls with the pistachio praline and roll them in grated pistachios. Arrange the ingredients among four plates and finish with the smoked cheek. Add the reserved butter to the jus. Dress the plate with the mix and edible amaranth and serve.

To add a bit more background and depth to this recipe we suggest watching the video below that explains exactly how cod cheeks are sourced commercially, and shows Anthony Flinn selecting prime cod cheeks:

Video: Sourcing Cod Cheeks for Anthony Flinn

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