Skate 101: Three local cooks share their favorite recipes

March 1, 2024

For a long time, skate has been considered trash fish. But with local groundfish like haddock and cod increasingly off the menu, home cooks and local chefs are turning more and more to this tasty shark relative. This week, I talk with three Outer Cape cooks about their favorite skate dishes. Let’s start with my friend Ethan Manach from Wellfleet, who first learned to cook skate as a chef in California.

“I lived in San Francisco. I worked at a place called the Hayes Street Grill. I worked for a woman her name was Patricia Unterman. She probably at the time was the local food movement like before the local food movement. She used to get skate in all the time, so it was one of the standard, when it was in season she would get it, she would get a ton of it.”

Unterman is known for her classic preparations of old style European dishes. The nice thing about skate is that it’s mild enough to stand in for all kinds of fish.

“So it is a simple, just pan-seared skate just dredged in some flour and then when you pull the skate out you hit it with some butter til it gets to sort of that frothy point, throw the capers in there until they start to pop, squeeze of lemon and away it went. And that was as simple as it could possibly get.”

Ethan used the wings for that method.

They’re the pectoral fins of the skate. The other edible cut is the cheeks, which are true cheeks and which come from between the back of the wings and the top of the head. Here’s Tony Pasquale, who owns Terra Luna restaurant in Truro:

“The wings to me are just, they’re simple. It’s just like cooking a fillet. The cheeks, the closest thing you’re going to get is a scallop, maybe a little smaller.”

They meats have fairly different textures.

“I think the cheeks are meatier, they’re a little thicker, and they’re a little fattier, the wings I’ve had them in different spots and I’ve had them really overcooked so they’ll dry out I’m assuming more than the cheeks, I want to play around with those cheeks. God, that sounded wrong. So yeah, I mean the wings themselves, they’re more like a fillet of fish, they can get really dry, but if you cook ‘em right, they’re perfect.”

Tony’s favorite way to cook skate wings is an old school Italian recipe for pan-seared skate with salsa verde — you can find it written up on our website. As for the cheeks, my friend Lee Wootherspoon has experimented with them. When she first brought them home she wasn’t sure what to do. But she decided the texture seemed most similar to shrimp.

“So I added the you know basic kind of coconut shrimp recipe, well I never really work with a recipe but basic coconut shrimp idea, and dredged it in egg and then a mix of cornmeal, coconut flour, and shredded coconut and pan-fried in hot oil.”

I asked how it was.

“Absolutely delicious. Really, really good, crispy and tender on the inside, and flavorful.”

Lee says the flavor of skate is mild enough to take on whatever seasoning you give it, but because of the texture, you definitely know you’re eating fish. Skate season opens each year on May 1 and runs year round or until the quota is reached.

This piece first aired in February 2016.

You can hear more about the local skate fishery in . 


Tony is the owner and chef at restaurant in Truro. This recipe serves 4.

for the skate:

1 and 1/2 pounds skate wings


olive oil

salt and pepper

for the sauce:

1/4 cup fresh bread croutons

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup fresh basil

1/2 cup fresh parsley

11 anchovy fillets

2 hard boiled eggs

salt and pepper to taste

Flour the fish and season with salt and pepper. Warm up a glug of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Pan fry the wings for 2-3 minutes per side, or until they look golden and crispy.

To make the sauce, soak the bread in the red wine vinegar for 15 minutes. Squeeze out excess vinegar, then combine the soaked bread with the remaining ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. 

To serve, put a tablespoon of the sauce on top of the fish and serve hot.


Serves 3-4

1 pound skate cheeks 

1/2 cup coarse cornmeal

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 cup finely shredded, unsweetened coconut 

2 large eggs

extra virgin olive oil, for frying

Combine the cornmeal and coconut flour in a medium size shallow bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Crack the eggs into another similar bowl and whisk well. Put the coconut in another similar bowl.

Cover the bottom of a large skillet with oil and warm up over medium heat. Dredge the skate cheeks by dipping them first into the flour mixture, then the eggs, and finally the coconut. Fry in batches for 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden and crispy. Serve hot.

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