How to Cook New England-Style Cornmeal-Crusted Cod Cheeks

Cornmeal fried cod cheeks
Hank Shaw
  • Total: 35 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 4 main dishes (4 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
827 Calories
61g Fat
45g Carbs
33g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 main dishes (4 servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 827
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 61g 78%
Saturated Fat 9g 44%
Cholesterol 64mg 21%
Sodium 405mg 18%
Total Carbohydrate 45g 16%
Dietary Fiber 10g 37%
Protein 33g
Calcium 487mg 37%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Cod cheeks. They are what you think. These little morsels of goodness are from the jaws of cod and haddock, or halibut in the Pacific. They are a fisherman's friend; traditionally fishermen would eat the cheeks and sell the rest of the fish, thinking they would not be appealing to buyers. These tiny pieces of cod or halibut are easy to cook and fun to eat as a sandwich on a crusty bun with greens and sauce of choice or solo, with just a dipping sauce, as an appetizer. Simply breaded or battered, cod cheeks are a must-have when in New England. This recipe jazzes up a classic with a garlic-basil dipping sauce. Figure on three to five cheeks per person for a starter; double that for a main course serving.


  • 1 pound fish (cod or halibut cheeks)
  • 1 cup cornmeal (fine- or medium-grind)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne (powdered)
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup olive oil (not the good stuff)
  • 1 to 3 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1 cup basil (leaves, loosely packed)
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1 quart cooking oil (for frying)

Steps to Make It

The Sauce

  1. Gather the ingredients.
  2. In a food processor, add a pinch of salt, the basil, garlic and mustard.
  3. Blend until well-mixed, then add the olive oil in a slow drizzle to complete the sauce.
  4. The mustard will help to keep it from separating, but if it does, no big deal:
  5. Simply stir it vigorously right before you serve.

The Fish

  1. Gather the ingredients.
  2. Mix the cornmeal with the cayenne and black pepper.
  3. Place a heavy skillet over medium-high with enough oil -- I like canola oil for frying -- to come up the sides of the pan about a quarter-inch.
  4. Salt the cod or halibut cheeks well, then dredge in the cornmeal. Shake off any excess and fry in the oil. Do not crowd them; cook in batches if you need to. Put the cooked cheeks on a plate with a paper towel on it in a warm oven.
  5. You should cook the cheeks about 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until they are golden brown. Turn down the heat to medium if they are cooking too fast.
  6. Serve with the dipping sauce on the side. As for a drink, I like to have a beer with this ... or better yet, a glass of champagne, prosecco or other sparkling white wine.