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Perch Recipes Worth Standing on Ice For

Perch fry photograph by Seth Lang

Mary Thill’s “Gold under the Ice” in Adirondack Life‘s February 2015 issue gives readers a tantalizing taste of Lake Champlain’s winter fishing culture. Yellow perch, Thill asserts, is a true locavore treasure, sustainable, safe and delicious. This small freshwater fish rivals flounder or sole for delicate texture and sweet flavor and—if you don’t feel like ice-fishing yourself—it’s available on the Adirondacks’ east coast this season at places like Norm’s Bait and Tackle (286 Bridge Road, Crown Point, NY 12928, 518-597-3645).

You can dredge the petite three- to four-inch-long filets in a blend of mayonnaise and brown mustard, roll in panko or Italian bread crumbs, sprinkle with dry vermouth and bake in a buttered pan at 350 for 15-18 minutes, with a pound of fish serving about four people. Another option is spicy fish cakes, with citrus and hot pepper accents in light, crisp patties.

Really, though, these diminutive angel wings soar in a classic beer batter. From there you can assemble fish tacos in soft corn tortillas or sliders on dinner rolls. The tacos are traditionally accompanied by cabbage salad; for the sliders, tartar sauce is the partner. When you’ve decided which way to go and have your pound of filets rinsed, patted dry and dredged very lightly in plain flour, make the batter.

 

Beer Batter
for one pound filets (about 20 small; serves six in tacos or sliders)

1 cup flour

2 tbs cornmeal

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp smoked paprika or chipotle chile powder (optional)

10 ounces or more beer (lager or pale ale)

Whisk together dry ingredients. Add beer and whisk, adding more beer to reach the consistency of pancake batter. You can make this 30 minutes ahead of frying but don’t wait too long or the effervescence will fade.

For the tortillas, lightly grease a cast-iron skillet. One at a time heat tortillas for about 45 seconds per side. Stack tortillas, wrap all in foil and hold in a warm oven until you’re ready to install the fish. One pound of perch will fill a dozen corn tortillas, with some filets leftover.

 

Fried Perch

Heat coconut, peanut, grape-seed or other high smoke-point oil in a large skillet to a depth of at least 1/2 inch and a temperature of 375. If you don’t have a thermometer, place a cube of bread in the oil—it should brown quickly.

Working next to your stove, slide each filet into the batter and place gently in the oil. This can be messy! Turn filets after two or three minutes; the batter should be golden brown. Cook for another two to three minutes, then drain on a rack or paper towels. Place filets in a warm oven until you’re ready to make the tacos or sliders. One pound may require three frying sessions, depending on the size of your skillet.

 

Cabbage Salad

1 clove garlic, grated

1 tbs minced jalapeno

1 tsp lime zest

2 tbs fresh lime juice

1 tbs rice wine vinegar

2 tbs olive oil

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp white sugar

2 cups shredded cabbage

1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced

Grate garlic into small bowl. Add minced jalapeno and lime zest. Stir in lime juice, vinegar and oil; add salt and sugar. Mix in cabbage and onion. Allow to rest in refrigerator at least an hour so flavors blend.

For fish tacos, put corn tortilla flat on plate. Add a filet and top with a generous spoonful of cabbage salad. You can also garnish with sliced avocado, green chile salsa or sour cream.

If sliders are your choice—easier to assemble for a crowd—lightly toast 12-16 dinner rolls, depending on how many filets you have. Top with tartar sauce.

 

Spicy Tartar Sauce

1 cup mayonaise

2 tbs plain yogurt

2 tbs lemon juice

1 tbs suriacha sauce

Chopped green chiles from a can to taste

Mix all together and spread on both sides of toasted rolls. Excess will keep in the refrigerator for a week.

 

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