Classic Walleye Shore Lunch
Excerpted from Dishing Up Minnesota, © by Teresa Marrone, Photography by © David Paul Schmit, used with permission from Storey Publishing.
Teresa’s cookbook, Dishing Up Minnesota, would naturally include references to popular destinations, including the famed Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). This is recipe was designed to be prepared on an open fire built underneath a Forest Service iron grate, found at most official Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) campsites. But the foundation of the recipe is ideal for shore lunches using the same techniques.
From the Chef: “The first key to preparing this meal in the rough outdoor setting is a little advance preparation, which means bringing along the right ingredients. The second key, of course, is catching walleye to cook; I leave that up to your skills with a rod.
You will also need a cast-iron skillet, a small plastic bottle of liquid dish soap, utensils for cooking and serving, a sharp fillet knife, paper towels, and a plastic bag for garbage.”
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
4 tablespoons butter, cut into 8 pats
2 large russet potatoes, peeled, boiled, cooled, and sliced ½ inch thick
3 bacon strips, cooked until crisp, then crumbled
½ cup sliced onion, cut crosswise from a wedge
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (1 stick) butter, cut up and packed in a tightly sealing plastic container
4 small to medium walleye fillets (or 2 larger fillets, cut in half crosswise), skin and rib bones removed
- Prepare the fish breading: Combine the flour, cornmeal, onion powder, salt, garlic powder, and paprika in a 1-gallon ziplock bag. Hold the top of the bag together and shake to mix. Roll up and seal the bag.
- Prepare the potato packets: Tear off two 24-inch lengths of heavy-duty foil. For each packet, fold one piece of foil in half crosswise with the shiny side in. Place two pats butter on the foil. Top with one-quarter of the potatoes. Scatter half of the bacon and half of the onion over the potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Top with another -one-quarter of the potatoes and two more pats of butter. Fold the long edges of the foil together, then roll-fold toward the potatoes, making three or more roll-folds. Roll-fold each end toward the center.
- When you head out to fish, wrap the potato packets and the butter container in a towel with a small frozen ice pack. Tuck the rolled-up bag of breading into the skillet, and wrap with a towel.
- To prepare lunch, build a good-size fire under a fire grate. Let it burn until you have a lively bed of coals with a few flames licking out; feed the fire as needed during cooking to maintain a hot, but not roaring, fire. Put the packets on the grate and cook until you hear sizzling, then turn and cook until the second side sizzles. Cook for about 10 minutes longer, turning frequently. Move them to the edge of the grate to keep warm.
- Rub the outside of the skillet with dish soap; this makes it easy to clean off the soot that will accumulate on the skillet. Place the skillet on the grate. Add about 2 tablespoons of butter. Shake two fish fillets in the bag of breading. Add to the skillet. Cook until golden brown and crisp on both sides, adding a bit more butter if needed. Poke the fish at the thickest part; if the flesh is opaque, the fish is done.
- Serve the fish and one of the potato packets to the first two lucky diners while you cook the second batch of fish. Remove the skillet from the heat and set it on a rock to cool while you enjoy your lunch. Give everyone an apple and a cookie for dessert, if desired.
- Wipe the skillet inside and out with paper towels. Burn the paper towels, or put them in the garbage bag. Crush the foil and place in the garbage bag. Pour water on the fire and stir with a stick until it is completely cold. This is very important; fires can smolder for hours and reignite forest duff. The 2007 Ham Lake Forest Fire in Minnesota, which was started by a campfire in the BWCA, consumed over 75,000 acres of forest and about 130 structures.
About the Chef:
Teresa Marrone is the author of Dishing Up® Minnesota and The Beginner’s Guide to Making and Using Dried Foods, as well as several cookbooks, field guides, and regional books. She is very active in her local food scene, and has written food-related profiles and features for a variety of magazines. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For more information, visit http://www.storey.com/author/teresa_marrone