One of the great fallacies in the history of cooked freshwater fish is the notion that walleye needs to be breaded and deep fried. We all love a crisp, bread-crumbed walleye fillet atop a hoagie slathered in tartar sauce and slaw, but ask yourself the next time you order this North Country belt buster: “Am I really tasting the walleye beneath the bread, grease, and condiments?” The answer is probably not--which is the reason that a significant number of restaurants and distributors are able to commit fraud against consumers by selling pollock and zander that is mislabeled as walleye.
In my opinion, fresh walleye is best sautéed in an iron skillet in a small amount of high quality, extra virgin olive oil. This preparation, more than any other, enables you to taste the soft, delicate flavor of the fish and enjoy it’s almost ballerina-like flakiness. Olive oil imparts a slight fruitiness that compliments the taste of the fish in a way that butter or other oils cannot. Use of an iron skillet (as opposed to a non-stick pan) causes a slight, golden crust to develop on the bottom of the pan. When delicately scraped from the pan with a metal spatula and sprinkled on the fish, this crust creates a delicious crunch. Unlike breading, the crusted walleye sprinkles ARE the fish, so they don’t compete with it! (Note: If you use a plastic spatula versus a metal spatula, it will be much more difficult to scrape the delicious crust from the bottom of the pan.)
The effectiveness of this recipe hinges partly on the quality of the walleye you are using. Older, watery fillets will not as likely generate a pan crust. I recommend sautéing only a small quantity of fish at a time so that moisture in the fish can easily evaporate and the pan can best develop a crust.
I promise you: If this recipe does not yield some of the purest and most delicious fish you’ve ever had, you can have your money back.
@1.5 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil (just enough to coat the bottom of your iron skillet, but not so much that the fish will be oily)
1/3 lb walleye fillet (cutting it in two pieces will make it easier to flip)
(optional) 2-3 pinches of minced, fresh Italian parsley
Directions: Over a medium flame, heat the olive oil in an iron skillet for 1-2 minutes until water dances (be careful to not allow oil to smoke or burn!). Add the walleye fillet, and immediately shift it in the pan to ensure that the bottom is coated with oil. Allow fillet to cook for @ 2 minutes, until it has a golden hue. Flip with a metal spatula, tip pan to allow oil to spread evenly, and cook for @ 2 minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle a small amount of sea salt atop the fish and in the surrounding pan. When the second side is cooked, flip it again. Sprinkle parsley in the pan and on the fish. With the spatula, carefully scrape up the golden pan crust and parsley and dribble atop the fish. Remove from heat and serve.
Quantity: Serves 1-2.
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