Fish On

By: Cathy Blankman

Minnesota summer is in full swing

Days are spent on the lake, fishing and picnicking on pontoon boats, evenings are spent around bonfires swapping stories of the one that got away. Work days are as short as we can make them, and evenings are as long as we can stretch them! Meals change from comforting hotdishes and soups to cold salads, grilled meat and my personal favorite – fried walleye! If you’re lucky enough to have a fisherman or two in your household, or generous friends, (can I have their number, please?) a summer fish fry is likely on your menu!

 

Fishing in God’s country

I would speculate that almost every Minnesotan lives within a 20 minute drive to a lake. From my house, a ten minute drive takes me to the shores of Rainy Lake in Voyageurs National Park. God’s country. If you’ve never been here, please put it on your bucket list! Though we are not boat owners, my husband, my mom and I were out on the lake with a guide a few Saturdays ago and caught our limits of walleye, as well as countless fish that were too big to keep! Say what?? I also brought in a 15” crappie, which was so much fun! At the end of the day, our guide filleted our fish and we will enjoy them for a few meals throughout the summer.

 

Corny, crunchy, buttery perfection

Everybody has their secret ingredient that makes the best breading for their flakey filets. For years, my mom used cornflake crumbs. I grew to love the slightly sweet, corny crunch. In more recent years, she switched to panko bread crumbs. They lend a light crispiness, but lack flavor in my opinion. Some of my favorite fish fries have used crushed saltines or butter crackers as the breading. So what’s a girl to do? Combine all three for corny, crunchy, buttery perfection! Here’s how I make mine:

Get out two shallow bowls. One for the egg wash, and one for the crumbs. I have an awesome vintage bowl and antique fork that I love to use for this job. The ingredients listed will be enough for at least 3 or 4 medium sized fish. (6 to 8 filets)

Egg wash:
2 eggs, beaten with an awesome antique fork
¼ tsp salt

Breading:
½ cup cornflake crumbs
½ cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup crushed butter crackers or saltines
1 tsp lemon pepper (or more, if you like!)
¼ tsp salt

Dip clean, dry filets in egg wash first, and then coat them in the crumb mixture. Bread all of the filets at once and lay them out on paper towels to make the frying step easier. Bring your oil up to 350º and fry the filets 2 or 3 at a time, whatever fits without dropping the oil temperature too quickly. If you are pan frying, you will need to flip them after a minute or so, but I like to deep fry for about 3 minutes. Set filets aside on more paper towels to absorb any grease, until the whole batch is fried.

 

Perfect pairings

Jell-O Salad! Image Credit: Wikipedia, Public Domain

Enjoy your fish fry with potato salad, pasta salad, or a classic Minnesota Jell-O “salad”. The walleye will be the star of the show, whatever you choose. My crappie was actually just as yummy as the walleye, and we enjoy fresh northern pike this way too, as long as the guide filets out the ‘y’ bones!

There are lots of options for pairing beverages with a fish fry. Depending on your setting, you may want to have grabbable cans of craft beer, local La Crescent, or even some sparkling Rose! We paired our most recent fish fry with a bottle of white from our favorite Washington winery. It was a blend that was mostly Pinot Grigio, with a bit of Gewürztraminer and Riesling. I got scents of apple cider on the nose, which makes me think that a hard cider would also be awesome with your fish fry! This particular white blend was medium
bodied and dry with hints of pear on the palate. I wouldn’t go for a full-bodied white wine, like a heavily oaked Chardonnay as it could overpower the flakey fish.

Try something different each time and see what you like best. Just make sure you get out on the lake this summer, catch some walleye, and start planning your next fish fry! The next two months will go by so quickly and we will be wishing for some long summer evenings as the weather turns cold. Don’t let it pass you by!

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