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Wisconsin-style fish


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My wife is a Cheesehead (and I use that term with great affection), so eating fish is one of the great pleasures of visiting the Wisconsin relatives. She is particularly fond of walleye, but we rarely see any in Maryland. Last week she found walleye fillets in the grocery store and recreated the taste of home (click). I’m pretty sure that she dredged the fillets in flour, salt, and pepper, and then shallow-fried them in a cast iron skillet. They were delicious, and our boys absolutely inhaled them.

I am more familiar with saltwater fish, so this got me wondering: how do folks in Wisconsin (and presumably neighboring states) make fish taste so gosh-darned good? What kinds of fish do you favor? How do you prepare and cook them? For fried fish, what coatings do you use? What about you Minnesotans and others blessed with abundant cold-water lake fish?

Please help a walleye-lover in crab country!

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Walleye does not need much... it is probably the best fresh water fish of North America with brook trout.

In general, butter does magic will walleye... many people coat them in batter but I am not a great fan of this technique. One of my uncle keeps the cheeks in the freezer in a ziploc bag until he has enough for a fish fondue... hummmm!

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While I like walleye very much, I'm especially fond of sun fish, just because they are so much easier to catch (and a ton of fun on a hot August day, using a cane pole). Another favorite is perch, if you can find a mess that aren't wormy. BTW, the walleye really is a perch, not a pike, although it is often called walleye pike.

As to cooking them, I do what my MIL taught me to do. Shallow fry, following a dreg is egg beaten with water and a dusting of finely crushed saltine crackers. I have friends who vow by cornflake crumbs. I can't be bothered with the beer batter and deep frying because, quite frankly, when I'm up at the lake, I couldn't be bothered with cleaning up all of the splatters, baked on bits of batter than inevitably fall on the stove, oil storage/filtering, etc.

I do the same method here at home when Paul's been ice fishing, unless they are crappies. I find the taste of the crappie a bit muddy, and find it takes very well to a shallow "deep" fry ala Asian and topped with a spicy sauce (fish fried whole, head, tale and all -- merely gutted).

Fishing season is upon us!

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I talked to Mrs. C about how she cooked the walleye, and apparently I had it all wrong. She soaked the fillets in milk, tossed them in a plastic bag with flour, panko, salt, and pepper, and then pan-fried them in browned butter.

My go-to recipes for fish are pescado al mojo de ajo and chuan-chuan, so Wisconsin-style fish is a new thing for me.

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I grew up in MN and now live in Milwaukee. When Dad, brother and I went fishing in the morning, we'd come home and have fish for breakfast: salt, pepper, into a pan with some butter. On the side: a couple eggs, toast, bacon maybe. Not haute cuisine, but I have very fond memories of great tasting breakfasts.

In general, if the fish is good, simple = good.

Edited by MattJohnson (log)
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I have eaten Walleye in Michigan many times and am curious if anyone has a special sauce/condiment that they like as an addition.

Also, any favorite methods/techniques for cooking Pike, Lake Trout, and Whitefish?

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I absolutely love this Bon Appetit recipe which I found at Epicurious

Miso Glazed Sea Bass

I made it a few times with great success - very easy to make and my guests were floored by how good it was. When my local fish purveyor chose to stop stocking sea bass (for all the right reasons) he suggested sable (aka Black Cod) as a substitute because it has white flesh and a similar oil content. I tried it once and wasn't enthused but since then I've been advised that Walleye is an excellent substitute for sea bass.

I encourage you to try that recipe out. It's deceptively simple but yields a terrific almost crunchy golden brown crustiness on the exterior of the filet and a very moist interior - and the flavor added by the marinade/glaze doesn't overpower the flavor of the fish.

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I have eaten Walleye in Michigan many times and am curious if anyone has a special sauce/condiment that they like as an addition.

Also, any favorite methods/techniques for cooking Pike, Lake Trout, and Whitefish?

For pike, I suggest to send it back in the water... I have never been able to get rid of the muddy flavor of their flesh... and anyway they are full of bones :wink:

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I have eaten Walleye in Michigan many times and am curious if anyone has a special sauce/condiment that they like as an addition.

Also, any favorite methods/techniques for cooking Pike, Lake Trout, and Whitefish?

For pike, I suggest to send it back in the water... I have never been able to get rid of the muddy flavor of their flesh... and anyway they are full of bones :wink:

Here in North Dakota or in Northern Saskatchewan the pike have a very clean taste. From what I have seen people prefer the pike (when they dont know which is which) I prefer pan blackening them, best damn sandwich ever. My father is kind of a local fishing celebrity here and did a segment on Tony Dean Outdoors on how to remove the "Y" bones. But I dont know how to still. Lake trout and whitefish are quite good smoked. Whitefish especially is great any way its prepared.

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my husband is from Racine ..and lived on lake Michigan spring, summer, fall and ice fishing in the winter.....after prodding him for "Wisconsin" style way of preparing fish and him looking at me like "what on earth do you mean by that? " he said "just dip it in corn meal or seasoned flour and deep or pan fry it the only other option he knew of was to "smoke it"

period.....perch to walleye he said where he grew up.. when anyone caught fresh fish they soaked it in milk (yes to get all the fish flavor out of it) dipped it in breading of some kind and fried it ..or brined and popped it in the smoker ...

smoking and frying the two most "Wisconsin" ways of eating fish he knew of

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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Hummingbirdkiss: Thank you – that seems to match Mrs. C’s memory. Yes, cornmeal seems to make a toothier breading than flour (but panko had a nice tooth, too).

Owen: Miso glazed walleye sounds delicious <<runs off to add sake and yellow miso to shopping list>> Do you broil the fish on one side only, or on both sides?.

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I have eaten Walleye in Michigan many times and am curious if anyone has a special sauce/condiment that they like as an addition.

Also, any favorite methods/techniques for cooking Pike, Lake Trout, and Whitefish?

For pike, I suggest to send it back in the water... I have never been able to get rid of the muddy flavor of their flesh... and anyway they are full of bones :wink:

Here in North Dakota or in Northern Saskatchewan the pike have a very clean taste. From what I have seen people prefer the pike (when they dont know which is which) I prefer pan blackening them, best damn sandwich ever. My father is kind of a local fishing celebrity here and did a segment on Tony Dean Outdoors on how to remove the "Y" bones. But I dont know how to still. Lake trout and whitefish are quite good smoked. Whitefish especially is great any way its prepared.

I have the same experience. I don't think I've ever had a muddy tasting pike. The y bones are a pain though.

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I have eaten Walleye in Michigan many times and am curious if anyone has a special sauce/condiment that they like as an addition.

Also, any favorite methods/techniques for cooking Pike, Lake Trout, and Whitefish?

For pike, I suggest to send it back in the water... I have never been able to get rid of the muddy flavor of their flesh... and anyway they are full of bones :wink:

Here in North Dakota or in Northern Saskatchewan the pike have a very clean taste. From what I have seen people prefer the pike (when they dont know which is which) I prefer pan blackening them, best damn sandwich ever. My father is kind of a local fishing celebrity here and did a segment on Tony Dean Outdoors on how to remove the "Y" bones. But I dont know how to still. Lake trout and whitefish are quite good smoked. Whitefish especially is great any way its prepared.

I have the same experience. I don't think I've ever had a muddy tasting pike. The y bones are a pain though.

If the fish taste muddy it's from a muddy bottomed lake. One of the reasons canadian, northern minnesota, north dakota, or nothern wisconsin (my only experiences) walleye are more coveted is the sandy bottomed lakes.

Edited by kjente2 (log)
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I have eaten Walleye in Michigan many times and am curious if anyone has a special sauce/condiment that they like as an addition.

Also, any favorite methods/techniques for cooking Pike, Lake Trout, and Whitefish?

For pike, I suggest to send it back in the water... I have never been able to get rid of the muddy flavor of their flesh... and anyway they are full of bones :wink:

Here in North Dakota or in Northern Saskatchewan the pike have a very clean taste. From what I have seen people prefer the pike (when they dont know which is which) I prefer pan blackening them, best damn sandwich ever. My father is kind of a local fishing celebrity here and did a segment on Tony Dean Outdoors on how to remove the "Y" bones. But I dont know how to still. Lake trout and whitefish are quite good smoked. Whitefish especially is great any way its prepared.

I have the same experience. I don't think I've ever had a muddy tasting pike. The y bones are a pain though.

If the fish taste muddy it's from a muddy bottomed lake. One of the reasons canadian, northern minnesota, north dakota, or nothern wisconsin (my only experiences) walleye are more coveted is the sandy bottomed lakes.

Maybe I should give pike a second chance...

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my husband is from Racine ..and lived on lake Michigan spring, summer, fall and ice fishing in the winter.....after prodding him for "Wisconsin" style way of preparing fish and him looking at me like "what on earth do you mean by that? " he said "just dip it in corn meal or seasoned flour and deep or pan fry it  the only other option he knew of was to "smoke it"

period.....perch to walleye he said where he grew up.. when anyone caught fresh fish they soaked it in milk (yes to get all the fish flavor out of it)  dipped it in breading of some kind and  fried it ..or brined and popped it in the smoker ...

smoking and frying the two most "Wisconsin" ways of eating fish he knew of

Well, the only other real option would be to sprinkle it with seasoned salt, slather it with butter, and bake (or broil) it. Certainly not with perch, crappie, or bluegills, though. Only the larger fish, like Northern.

Lot of work to fillet; but, man those little fish were tasty...

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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For those of that grew up in Wisconsin fishing and still do, we carry the impliments for fish fry with us. Bacon for rendering, frying pan, flour, salt/pepper, lemon if you need it. Simply fast. The important thing is fresh fish properly killed , gutted and kept cool. With the fire regulations today, we carry a cooler with ice to properly chill the fish until we can reach a place to cook.

Broasted is a process the is basically a pressure fry, that is Patented/trademarked? by a compnay out of Beloit Wisconsin. they sell the commercial Broaster and breading. Had a lot of perch done up that way in Neenah Wisconsin. Sadly the restaurant is long gone.

BTW Miso coated fish would have you laughed out of Green Bay and places farther North, politely of course! :biggrin: -Dick

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For pike, I suggest to send it back in the water... I have never been able to get rid of the muddy flavor of their flesh... and anyway they are full of bones

Soak the filets in low fat milk for 24 hours changing the milk after the first twelve.

Use a standard Tempura batter and the Pike will be sweet and firm.

I see you're from Ottawa-I grew up north of North Bay where Pike are always sweet except in July/August-that's when we used the low fat milk trick.

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For pike, I suggest to send it back in the water... I have never been able to get rid of the muddy flavor of their flesh... and anyway they are full of bones

Soak the filets in low fat milk for 24 hours changing the milk after the first twelve.

Use a standard Tempura batter and the Pike will be sweet and firm.

I see you're from Ottawa-I grew up north of North Bay where Pike are always sweet except in July/August-that's when we used the low fat milk trick.

Thanks for the tips! If I have the chance to go fishing over the next months, I'll definitely try using milk.

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Frankly I have never been impressed at any of the Fish Boils I have been to in Door County. They are rather plain affairs that for whatever reason have become the thing to do in Door County. A better use of whitefish is to sprinkle paprika and a little salt on top and broil. Whitefish is a cold water somewhat oily fish that stands up to that treatment. A little butter on top and it's excellent.

Ray Radigan's, just South of Kenosha on Sheridan Road makes great broiled whitefish. We have been eating there for 30+ years. -Dick

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I grew up just south of Kenosha in Winthrop Harbor. I left at 18 and never went back.

My favorite Wisconsin fish was the smoked fish we'd pick up while driving through Door County, more than 50 years ago. They would wrap it in waxed butcher paper and my brother and I would inhale it as we drove along.

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Frankly I have never been impressed at any of the Fish Boils I have been to in Door County. They are rather plain affairs that for whatever reason have become the thing to do in Door County. A better use of whitefish is to sprinkle paprika and a little salt on top and broil. Whitefish is a cold water somewhat oily fish that stands up to that treatment. A little butter on top and it's excellent.

Ray Radigan's, just South of Kenosha on Sheridan Road makes great broiled whitefish. We have been eating there for 30+ years. -Dick

You're completely correct. The one I went to didn't taste that great at all. I would much rather had fish cooked the way you describe. Still, I am glad I went. It was still an experience. They guy running ours was quite a character. I doubt I'd go to another one, but I'd recommend people trying it once.

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Owen: Miso glazed walleye sounds delicious <<runs off to add sake and yellow miso to shopping list>> Do you broil the fish on one side only, or on both sides?.

If I recall correctly I broiled it only on one side. The filets were rather thick but got that gorgeous golden glaze on all of the exposed sides and were perfectly cooked (i.e. moist throughout but not underdone).

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