Reprinted with permission from Lake Fish: Modern Cooking with Freshwater Fish by Keane Amdahl, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. www.mnhspress.org
Some of my fondest food memories I have revolve around freshly caught lake fish. The experience of being out on a boat all day with friends, catching what inevitably becomes our dinner, cleaning the fish and preparing the meal, the final feast - all these memories bring me to a happy place. I was never an avid angler - fishing was always a very casual event for me - but perhaps that's why I've enjoyed it so much. It was never a chore. It wasn't considered work. It was something done on special occasions or on vacation. This lack of expectation kept the task simple and fun, made sitting on the water comfortable, relaxed, blissful. A respite.
Growing up with a fair amount of Julia Child in my life, I appreciated early on that the best way to learn your way around the kitchen is to just go for it. Play with your food; don't be afraid of it. Once you get comfortable with fish, you'll discover that it's one of the easiest and fastest things to cook at home. Make sure your pan is hot and oiled, and you won't have to worry about the fish sticking. Once it's seared properly, the fillet will release from the pan and allow you to flip it over. It'll tell you when it's ready.
Northern Pike Nuggets
A fine adult take on classic fried chicken nuggets, made special by using northern pike fillets along with a tartar sauce seasoned with cornichons (small French pickles). All too often people don't give northern pike the respect they deserve because their structure makes them more difficult to debone than your average fish, but these days there are many YouTube tutorials to help you through the process. And this recipe is a good choice for when those first few fillets don't come out quite right. Give this fish a chance: the effort truly is worth it.
2 tbspfinely chopped cornichons
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cupbeer (or water)
1 large egg
1 tspbaking powder
2 tbspOld Bay seasoning
1lbskinless northern pike fillets, cut into 1½-inch nuggets
Stir together mayo, pickles, and vinegar in a small mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate until needed.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, beer, egg, baking powder, Old Bay, and a generous pinch of salt.
Add about 2 inches vegetable oil to a medium saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and warm to 350 degrees.
Dip fish nuggets into batter, gently place in the oil, and fry until golden brown, about 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel-lined plate. Season the nuggets with salt as soon as they come out of the fryer. Serve alongside the tartar sauce.
One of the things I love about good tartines (aside from the fact that they're absolutely delicious) is that they sound WAY fancier than they really are. Tartine is simply a French name for an open-faced sandwich, but it works so well with trout that your friends and family won't be the wiser when they sit down to eat their fancy sandwiches. This recipe is great for leftover trout, but you can also cook some up expressly for this purpose: just let it cool before you make your tartines.
4 slices pumpernickel bread
½ cup chive (or herbed) cream cheese
2 cups cooked, flaked trout
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
olive oil (optional)
Toast the bread to desired level of doneness--ideally, crisp on the outside and still chewy on the inside. Spread approximately 2 tablespoons of cream cheese on each slice and then top evenly with trout, red onion, and fresh chives. Cut in half, lightly drizzle with olive oil if desired, and serve.
Grilled Walleye Tacos with Mango Salsa
Of the millions of ways to put together a taco, this one might be the easiest. That there are so few ingredients is really the selling point, as it helps to emphasize the freshness of the fish. The walleye is perfect as its own entity, and the earthiness of the corn tortillas helps the natural sweetness of the fish to shine. Couple that with a sweet, savory, and spicy mango salsa and you may have created the perfect food.
1 cupfinely chopped mango
½ cup finely chopped tomato
½ cup finely chopped red onion
juice of ½ lime
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
4 (4- to 6-ounce) skinless walleye fillets
8 corn tortillas
Stir together the mango, tomato, onion, lime juice, and cilantro in a bowl. Season with salt and refrigerate until needed.
Pat the walleye fillets dry and season with salt. Place a grill pan over high heat and coat with nonstick spray. Add the fillets and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, then remove from heat. Cook the corn tortillas for about 10 seconds on each side. Flake the fish and place in tortillas. Top with the mango salsa.
Green Onion and Dill Northern Burgers
Everybody loves a good burger, but for some reason when it comes to fish, the default seems to be salmon. For a fresh change, dill and green onion add brightness to northern, making an excellent burger for any summertime cookout.
½ cup coarsely chopped green onions, green parts only
¼ cup coarsely chopped dill
4 (6-ounce) skinless northern fillets, cut into one-inch cubes
bread crumbs (if needed)
burger fixings: lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise
Place the green onions and dill in a blender and pulse 2 to 3 times to combine. Add in the fish fillets and pulse several times, until the mixture is fully combined and the fish is finely chopped. Spoon mixture into a large mixing bowl and add egg, stirring to thoroughly combine. If the mixture seems wet, slowly add in bread crumbs to soak up the extra moisture until mixture reaches "burger" consistency. Form mixture into 4 to 6 patties and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
Place a griddle pan over high heat and grease with nonstick spray. Add the fish patties and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until the fish is fully cooked through. Serve on a bun with your favorite burger toppings.