North·The Arctic Kitchen

Fried pickerel cheeks, 'one of the jewels of having fish'

We have amazing cooks from all over Canada sharing their recipes on the Arctic Kitchen. This week, we'll head to Pine Creek First Nation in Manitoba where Teresa Mekish fries up some delicious pickerel cheeks. 

This side-dish from Manitoba will be sure to get your mouth watering for a springtime fish fry

Is there anything better than perfectly-fried fish? We'll wait. (Submitted by Teresa Mekish)

We have amazing cooks from all over Canada sharing their recipes on the Arctic Kitchen.

This week, we'll head to Pine Creek First Nation in Manitoba where Teresa Mekish fries up some delicious pickerel cheeks. 

The pickerel comes fresh from the lake, right by her house. Her latest batch, shared on our Facebook page, came from a community giveaway, to make sure everyone had enough during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The cheeks, fried in batter, is a simple but delicious side for a fish dinner with mashed potatoes, pickles and beans. 

"It's one of the jewels of having fish," Mekish told Wanda McLeod, the host of CBC's Northwind radio program. "It's a big commodity in the community, it's what everybody likes.

"It's always a good treat. It's just like popcorn," she said.

The toughest part of the recipe may be just getting the cheeks out of the fish, Mekish said, adding she had some help from fishermen in town. 

From there just follow the recipe for Clubhouse English-style fish and chips batter, heat up some canola oil and fry the cheeks until golden brown. 

Doesn't that make your mouth water? The pickerel cheeks are a great side as part of a fish fry, and they're easy to make. (Submitted by Teresa Mekish)

"Just take a cup, or two cups, mix it with water and your batter is ready," she said. "It doesn't take very long, it's very fast to fry up. Fish doesn't take too long to cook." 

Mekish cooked up this batch of pickerel cheeks as a Mother's Day dinner she shared with her husband. About one pound of cheeks was enough for the two of them — they even had to fight for the last one. 

"It was my treat for Mother's Day," she said. 

No matter where you live, getting back on the land is important, Mekish said. It's something people in her community have been focusing on lately, and cooking is a big part of that. 

"Throughout the years we lost that — getting back to that, getting back to the land is something we're proud of," she said.

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