The official state fish of Minnesota, mild-flavored walleye also goes by the names yellow perch, pike perch and sand pike and can be cooked in most any way you would like because the firm flesh holds up well. You'll find walleye frozen and fresh in most fish markets. A splash of fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper makes walleye taste great no matter how you cook it.
Pan Fried and Grilled
Pan-frying and grilling give walleye fillets a crusty outer surface that contrasts with its succulent flesh. When cooking walleye directly on the grill or in a pan, oil the surface well and place the fish in the pan or on the grill after it heats up completely. Let fish from 1 to 1 1/2-inches thick cook about 2 minutes on each side or until the flesh flakes and looks opaque when you push it apart it with a fork.
Oven roasting keeps your stovetop and counters free from splattered grease, but the method works best with walleye fillets that are at least 1-inch thick -- thinner fillets dry out too quickly in the oven. Either brush or spray the fish with oil or coat it with a mixture of breadcrumbs, oil and herbs or crushed nuts, and cook it in a 475-degree Fahrenheit oven for about 13 minutes or until it flakes or reads 140 F on an instant read meat thermometer.
Cooking walleye in liquid keeps it moist. Poach fillets, steaks or pieces of walleye on the stovetop in a pot of water that is just below the boiling point, leaving them immersed for about 8 minutes, and sauce them with a lemon butter or cream sauce after cooking. Or, poach the fish in a pot of soup, such as corn chowder. For microwave poaching, marinate walleye for 20 minutes in a mix of soy sauce, oil, minced garlic and grated fresh ginger. Cook the fish on high about 2 minutes per side.
Steaming cooks walleye gently in a small amount of liquid, such as chicken stock or white wine. If you wrap fillets in aluminum foil or parchment paper and place them in a 400 F oven, they steam in about 10 minutes. Add aromatics such as sliced leeks or garlic, herbs such as chopped basil, and vegetables such as summer squash or cut cherry tomatoes to cook along with the fish.
Minnesota Department of Health guidelines advise pregnant women, women who may become pregnant and children under age 15 to eat walleye under 20 inches only once a month and to avoid larger fish due to potentially high levels of toxic mercury or PCB metals. Other adults can eat walleye once week, or even more if they only eat the fish once a year while on vacation.
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- Food & Wine: Midwestern Recipes
- The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion; Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst
- The Science of Good Cooking; Editors at America's Test Kitchen and Guy Crosby
- Bon Appetit: Fish Fillets with Tomatoes, Squash, and Basil
- Minnesota Department of Health: Statewide Safe Eating Guidelines for Fish Consumption
Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.