People tend to shy away from eating heads that resemble anything familiar. My Aunt wouldn't touch anything on the table with a face. The only exception she made was for whole sardines at Christmas time because she grew up on them, they were on of her favorite foods, and the faces in question were so small as to be easily ignored as she gently pulled the golden brown fillets off of their bones. This is a pitty because some of the most tenderful and flavorful meat is hidden in the heads of the fish and animals that we eat. Cheeks have waxed and waned in popularity, partially because they braise into tender succulent pieces of meat and partially because they were once economical and then their wholesale prices rose along with their popularity.
Heads are a lot of work to eat. It takes time to dig out the tender morsels and separate them from cartilage and bone. They are harder to access and messy to obtain. SItting at the table happily rooting through a plate full of fish heads is an unlikely scenario, unless you are eating alone. Animal heads are easier to access but even less approachable for many. Tete du veau is a classic French dish that is parodied endlessly in movies and television as hapless Americans accidentally order half of a head on a plate. We find the idea horrifying but have no issue drinking milk pulled from a cow's udders or eating sausages wrapped in an animals intestinal tract. In this case it's all about the visual appeal.
Head cheese is the great equalizer. Once you've done all of the hard work cooking the head and picking the meat, if you still want to share, you season the meat and press it into a mold. There's enough natural gelatin available that it will usually stick together without any additional help. In fact, the real trick is making sure that everything holds together without getting too firm and rubbery. Good head cheese is tender and flavorful and seems to melt gently on your tongue. Bad head cheese is so firm and chewy that you're halfway done before any flavor hits your tongue. The meat is dry because all of the gelatin is on the outside and your jaw is tired and your palate is coated with nothingness by the time you've swallowed. Great head cheese is a delicacy, with a range of textures and flavors and once you've tried it you will absolutely go back for more.
I hesitate to write this because currently we can get beautiful fish heads for free at our local market and I really don't want that to come to an end. But our piscatory version of head cheese is too good to keep to ourselves. It's simple to make and it melts in your mouth. In this case we had the head from a beautiful wild king salmon. We brined it (5% brine) for 10 minutes. Then we cooked it in the CVap at 50°C for 30 minutes. If you don't have a CVap, cooking in a low 175-200°F (79-93°C) oven or in a very gently simmering steamer for about 20 minutes will work as well. We let the head cool to a manageable temperature before picking the meat. We gently seasoned the meat with white soy sauce, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and just a few drops of white truffle oil. Then we put the salmon in a small container, pressed plastic wrap against the surface and let it set n the refrigerator overnight. The resting period allowed the flavors to meld and the gelatin to set so that the next day we had something pretty amazing. The fish was silky and rich with a savory flavor that, in spite of the various seasonings, spoke deeply of silvery fish and cold waters.