I can’t think of many things a typical Minnesotan would rather eat than the State fish, the Walleye Pike. (OK, maybe some weird casserole involving spam and crumbled potato chips!) Fished both commercially and recreationally, the Walleye (which is really a member of the Perch family, not the Pike family), is both an exciting game fish for anglers, and one of the prize fresh water eating fish. They can grow to 20 pounds, and are nocturnal, so anglers have to brave the cold Minnesota nights during “the season” to land a few.
Or you can purchase them from local fisheries or mail order houses, like Walleye Direct (be sure to also add some panfish to your order, like crappies, sunfish, and blue gills!). Or perhaps you’ll find yourself at the Minnesota State Fair (one of the country’s best!) around Labor Day, where they serve “Walleye on a Stick!”
Minnesotans idolize walleye so much, they’ve erected several giant statutes of the fish around the state, like this one in Garrison.
My good friends Alan and Brenda Searle, former denizens of the Gopher State, now of Oregon’s Brenalan Farms, purveyors of all things ovis aries related, recently facilitated the transfer of some walleye filets from Minnesota to BurgerDogBoy’s house, and we partook of these delights last nite.
Walleyes produce a light, flaky white fish meat, nearly boneless, very light in flavor, and “not fishy” at all. While there are many ways of cooking it, the avid fisherman (of which I have never been) defers to the “shore lunch” method, a light dusting of flour, paprika, salt, and pepper, and pan-fired in cast iron over a campfire (or reasonable facsimile of that).
I was determined to follow this method, which I would also refer to as my dad’s way of preparing walleye, but on later reflection, I don’t think we ever had walleye at home. A “mis-memory of childhood”, and there’s a sidebar thought on that.
Nonetheless, I selected an appropriate vessel from our cast iron pantry, dusted the fish as required, and pan fried them in a bit of butter. (My father would never have used butter, oops, sorry, Dad).
Walleye needs no accompaniments, other than maybe a squirt of lemon, and we enjoyed it with a huge salad from the garden. We have a variety of different colored carrots, not sure how I am supposed to get my “orange vitamin crap” from white or green carrots, but that’s a tale for another day.
Walleye, although plentiful in the Midwest US and Canada, is damned tough to find in Portland. I’ve called all the major seafood distributors and scoured the stores and come up empty. I do know it’s available at Corbett Fish House as a non-gluten version of fish and chips, and it’s a very delicious entree there, as are other Midwestern fish like lake perch.
But as far as I know, that’s your only opportunity to sample walleye in Portland, unless you get invited to our house!