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Chef Ben Leonard knew that the meaty texture and rich flavor of opah cheeks would be perfect in a pastrami-style preparation. To really show off this amazing fish and the beautiful oceans it comes from, his version uses black lime and Icelandic kelp in the final spice rub for an extra boost of umami. Now you can try this preparation at home and enjoy the delicious flavors of Opah Pastrami.
1 Opah Cheek
For the Brine
1kg (about 4 ¼ cups) water
73g brown sugar
38g kosher salt
6g 1 coriander seeds
2g mustard seeds
9g black peppercorns
2g Aleppo pepper
2g cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
Whisk to dissolve the brown sugar and salt in the water and cool to below 40F. Add in the coriander seeds, mustard seed, black peppercorns, Aleppo pepper, cardamom pods, and 1 bay leaf. Whisk to combine. Add in your opah cheek, (and make sure it's submerged fully), cover tightly with plastic, and place in the refrigerator for 48 hours. Turn/move after 24 hours to make sure it's brined equally on all sides.
Spice Rub Crust
9g fresh cracked black pepper (best cracked in mortar and pestle or spice grinder)
3g Aleppo pepper
6g black lime
4g dried kelp
5g kosher salt
Remove opah cheek from brine and pat completely dry. Brush with honey. Combine remaining ingredients for spice rub in a bowl, then evenly coat honey brushed opah cheek with the rub. Place on a sheet tray with a wire rack and cook 2.5-3 hours at 145F.
If using wood chips or a smoking gun, etc. in your home kitchen—add smoke after the first 2.5-3 hours and cook another hour. If using an outdoor smoker just cook in the smoker for 3-4 hours.
Let the opah cheek rest for 1 hour before slicing to enjoy or putting into the refrigerator for later.