The following recipes and photography were provided courtesy of local cookbook author and chef, Carla Snyder. Learn more about Carla and discover her recipes at Ravenouskitchen.com or in her cookbook, One Pan Whole Family.
Hooked on Lake Erie Walleye and Perch
Everybody knows the best fish is fresh fish and it doesn’t get any fresher than walleye and perch caught from the cool waters of Lake Erie on Ohio’s north coast. These fish are white-fleshed and mild-tasting, perfect for grilling, frying, sautéing, roasting or cooking with just about any type of herbs and seasonings. Chefs refer to walleye and perch as a blank palette because they can color them with an endless array of ethnic spins and pair them with whatever produce is in season. In other words, this fish is easy to cook, delicious and a no brainer to cook up for a quick dinner.
The walleye population in Lake Erie has exploded during the past few years — the fishing is considered to be great, and fisheries managers say it will likely get better in the near future as younger fish grow to “keeping size.” With 700 plus charter boats operating on Lake Erie, the vast majority in the Western Basin, charter fishing is big business on the lake. And walleye – the big-eyed, toothy predators – are target No. 1.
Commercial fishing is one of the oldest industries in the Lake Erie basin. Did you know that Lake Erie is the 12th largest lake in the world? It’s also the shallowest lake with over 90 percent of its total area less than 80 feet deep which means fish are never too far away.
The walleye is a freshwater fish in the perch family and a popular and commonly-stocked game fish. Walleye are long and thin and have a large mouth and sharp teeth. They range in size from 2.5 to 3 feet in length and can weigh up to 20 pounds, which means there’s a lot of good eating on a walleye. The flesh is white, tender and mild, similar to sole or flounder.
Yellow perch, also known as lake perch, has a mild, sweet flavor with a firm, flaky white flesh. They can vary in size but are usually between 4 to 10 inches long and weigh an average of 7 ounces. Hailed by many as the ultimate panfish, perch, along with walleye are among the most popular freshwater fish on restaurant menus. They’ve become pretty popular in my own kitchen as well! When it comes to cooking walleye and perch, you have lots of options. One of the best is to simply dust the fillets with flour and pan-fry them with a little oil. Once browned, flip them over and add a knob of butter to the pan. Baste the fish with the melted butter as it finishes cooking and in a matter of minutes…you’ll have a dish Julia Child would smack her lips over, I’m sure.
Speaking of a matter of minutes, fish in general cook at a rate of 7 minutes per inch thickness. This is, of course, a generalization and the level of heat plays a part, but it gives you an idea of how long it takes for a piece of fish to firm in the center. So, thinner fish like perch and some walleye filets have less than a 1-inch thickness and will thus cook in no more than three to four minutes.
Another great way to cook walleye and perch is to grill it. Make an herb butter, brush it on and grill the fish about 2 minutes, flip carefully with a spatula and cook another minute and it will probably be done. All it needs is a sprinkle of herbs to reach center of plate status. Even people who say they don’t like fish will eat it battered and fried. Just stir up 1 cup flour, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons pepper, 1 egg and a bottle of beer. Dip the fish in the batter and fry in 360°F oil until brown and crispy.
Asian Style Fish Taco with Wilted Cabbage Slaw: When breaded and fried, perch makes a perfect fish taco. Their size is a fit for most tortillas and the crispy outside and tender inside makes for the right amount of crunch when paired with a slaw, avocado and limey mayo. I’ve included a recipe below using perch but walleye would be just as delicious though it will take a few more minutes to cook through.
Gratin of Walleye with Tomato and Zucchini: This is another great way to cook this versatile fish. Potatoes are sautéed with a touch of garlic then shredded zucchini is stirred in, fish laid on top then tomatoes, buttered bread crumbs and then baked to crispy goodness. This homey dish is perfect for August when zucchini and tomatoes are plentiful and quick one-pan meals are welcome.
Coconut Crusted Walleye with Broccoli and Mandarin Orange Sauce: Without a doubt, this has become an all-time kid’s favorite at our house. Unsweetened coconut forms the crispy coating on firm-fleshed walleye filets, then all of this is cooked up with broccoli and a drizzle of Two Brothers Mandarin Orange Sauce. The sauce is guaranteed to please the kids and they might even gobble up the orange-infused broccoli for once.
These fishy ideas should keep you busy cooking up Lake Erie walleye and yellow perch for a while, but you can always simply bake, broil, grill, fry, pan fry or steam these fish in a matter of minutes. Just check out the graph below and find the method that suits your taste buds. After that, head over to the individual recipes for these fish dinners by clicking the bolded titles above!
Lake Erie Walleye and Yellow Perch Cooking Chart
|Pan-Fry||Salt, pepper, dust with flour or bread crumb coating (see taco recipe)||Skillet, ¼ cup oil more or less, medium-high heat, 3 to 5 minutes total or until browned, baste with 2 tablespoons butter once turned. Fresh herb sprinkle.|
|Deep-Fry||Salt, pepper, batter or bread crumb coating (see taco recipe)||Skillet, 2 cups oil more or less, 360°F, 3 minutes total or until browned. Serve with tartar, salsa or chili sauce.|
|Bake||Salt and pepper, drizzle with oil or butter||Sheet pan, 350° oven, 10 minutes or until firm. Fresh herb sprinkle, tartar, salsa or chili sauce.|
|Broil||Salt and pepper, drizzle with oil or butter||Broiler on high, second highest rack, 7 minutes or until firm. Fresh herb sprinkle, tartar, salsa or chili sauce|
|Grill||Salt, pepper, drizzle with oil||Grill medium-high heat, oil grate, 3 minutes or until firm. Fresh herb sprinkle, tartar, salsa or chili sauce|
|Steam in Foil||Salt, pepper, drizzle with oil, or butter, wrap in foil to seal||Grill medium-high or oven to 400°, 7 to 10 minutes or until firm|
|Roast||Salt and pepper, drizzle with oil or butter||Sheet pan, 425° oven, 7 to 10 minutes or until firm. Fresh herb sprinkle, tartar, salsa or chili sauce.|