Walleye fishing in Canada is one of my husband Tony’s favorite hobbies. For a while he went every year with a group of guys from his first job. After every trip, he would wax romantically about pan-fried walleye as the quintessential shore lunch. I’ve tried to replicate it many times but never came close. There must be something in the magical essence of pine trees, lake water, a lot of beer, and male companionship that brings out the flavor. Life happened, and his hobby of walleye fishing sadly went by the wayside for a number of years. This year marked the 30th anniversary of the trip, so we decided he should go.
This year I decided I should take another crack at pan-fried walleye. My current batting average was zero, so I needed to change it up. Instead of trying to fruitlessly recreate a recipe, I attempted my own take on the simple shore lunch. I bought several pieces of wonderful walleye from Casey’s Meat Market that I then breaded and fried. The cornmeal and bacon grease were replaced with panko and olive oil. Walleye is a gentle tasting fish, so I added Parmesan for a kick. Success! I served it up with a tossed salad of field greens in a rice wine vinaigrette, as its gentle flavor doesn’t overpower the fish.
Tony finally gave me accolades, but it took replacing the magical essence of pine trees, lake water, a lot of beer and male companionship with my culinary edge, great wine, and female companionship to create a winner!
Kewpie mayo, from Japan, is a nuanced mayonnaise that has a cult following. It is both sour and sweet, and comes in a squeeze bottle that makes it perfect for adding a finishing touch to recipes. I used the Kewpie as a base for the tartar sauce with the addition of sweet pickle relish. It only takes a minute, and the the flavors blend perfectly!
1. Mix the above ingredients together.
2. Bone Suckin’ Sauce. If the pan-fried walleye needs something else, I keep a jar of this on hand at all times. It is way better than ketchup. I added the bone suckin’ sauce to some cannelloni beans, and quickly cooked them to create really good, non-baked beans in a few minutes.
- 4 6oz pieces of fresh Walleye, skin removed
- ½ cup flour, all-purpose
- ½ teaspoon salt, Kosher
- 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- ¼ teaspoon oregano, Greek
- Zest of 1 lemon, grated on a Microplane
- ¼ cup parmesan shaving, (or use grated)
- 1 egg
- 2 Tablespoons milk
- Pinch salt and fresh ground pepper
- 4 Tablespoons canola or grape seed oil
- Preheat oven 350ºF convection / 375º bake
- Slice each piece of walleye into 3 pieces.
- Combine the flour and the salt on a plate.
- Combine the breadcrumbs, oregano, lemon, and Parmesan on a separate plate.
- Combine the egg and the milk in a shallow bowl, mix with a fork until frothy.
- In order to keep your hands from becoming a sticky mess when breading the fish, use one hand to move wet pieces of fish, and one hand to move dry pieces of fish.
- Place the fish in the flour mixture and coat well, shake off excess flour.
- Working in batches, coat the fish with the egg mixture and then the Panko mixture, pressing the Parmesan to the fish. Set breaded pieces aside on parchment paper.
- Heat the 4 Tablespoons of oil on medium-high heat in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, not smoking, working in batches, add the fish flesh side down. Cook until golden brown and flip using a spatula . Remove fish from the skillet and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the oven while you finish pan-frying the rest of the fish. Depending on the size of the pan, you may need to add more oil for each batch.
- The walleye is fully cooked when you gently press on the top and it flakes easily.