Lake Perch Dinner
Lake Perch Dinner. (Chef Aaron Egan)

This whole dish lives or dies on good seasoning.

Chef Aaron Egan
Chef Aaron Egan

Lake Perch is a delight enjoyed by Michiganders across both peninsulas; prepared simply and served with a classic remoulade, they can be found on many a restaurant’s menu. This method of cooking — floured, then sauteed hot and fast in a well-oiled/buttered pan — works well for all sorts of thin fish, including rainbow trout, smaller whitefish and the like. Skin the pieces if you like or leave the skin on if you’re that sort of fish eater.

Make sure to season the flour well — after all, it’s going to be all over the fish, and you’d hate for that to be bland. This whole dish lives or dies on good seasoning. To be quite honest: The rice and green beans can be either boring or brilliant, and the key is making sure there’s enough salt in the dishes. Taste and season as you go, and never set anything on the table that you’ve neglected to taste first.

Pan-Fried Lake Perch with Remoulade, Wild Rice and Green Beans 

Yield: 4 portions

Ingredients

  • 1½ lbs. cleaned lake perch 
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • ½ cup rice flour 
  • ½ cup cornstarch 
  • ¼ cup paprika 
  • 2 Tbs. salt 
  • ½ tsp. ground white pepper 
  • 8 oz. clarified butter 
  • 16 oz. prepared remoulade (recipe below) 
  • 12 oz. cooked wild rice (recipe below) 
  • 12 oz. cooked green beans (recipe below) 

Directions

1. Mix the flours, cornstarch and seasonings together in a bowl. Put the perch fillets in the bowl and toss to coat them evenly. Feel free to add more seasonings to the mix.

2. Heat a sauté pan over high heat and add 2 oz. clarified butter. 

3. When the butter is hot, remove the fillets from the flour, making sure they’re completely covered. Shake off the excess flour, and place the perch into the hot pan, carefully, one piece at a time, flesh side down. Only add enough pieces to the pan to create one layer with decent space in between fillets. Don’t crowd the pan; work in batches. 

4. Cook for 2-3 minutes, and carefully flip the perch pieces over. They should be golden brown — if not, cook a little longer, then flip them.

5. Cook the perch for 2-3 minutes after flipping, then take the pan off the heat and let sit for another 2 minutes. 

6. Take the perch out of the pan, clean out any accumulated flour, add more butter, and cook the remaining perch in the same way. 

7. Serve with a ramekin of remoulade and a portion of cooked wild rice and green beans. 

Remoulade

Yield: 3 cups 

Remoulade is one of those quick-and-dirty sauces that many people will buy rather than make. Admittedly, there’s a couple more specific ingredients, but fresh herbs can find their way into many dishes and capers are an excellent thing to have on hand for their briny punch in chicken dishes, fish dishes and salads. They’re, of course, also excellent with gravlax.

Ingredients

  • 1½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup dill pickles, gherkins or bread-and-butter pickles
  • ¼ cup capers 
  • 1 Tbs. parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsp. tarragon, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper 

Directions

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and chop together well. Store in a container, tightly sealed for up to a week.

Wild Rice 

Yield: 1 quart cooked rice 

Wild rice are the seeds of a wild grass that grows in marshy areas in the Great Lakes region. It’s a traditional foodstuff of the indigenous Anishinaabeg tribes across the area, and its commercialization has largely left them behind in favor of large conglomerates. Fortunately, we can do something to address this with our purchases, as there are several tribal groups that have turned their harvest into a commercial activity as well, and we can do some kind of tzedakah with our food dollars.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hand-harvested wild rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2-3 grinds black pepper

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover tightly. 

2. Cook for 15 minutes, or according to your package’s instructions, and check the consistency of the rice. It should have a slight chew, but no crunch or overly firm bite, and some of the grains will have burst open.

3. Once the rice is cooked, strain off any excess water, then return the rice to the pot, fluff it with a fork and allow it to cool slightly.

Pan-Glazed Green Beans

Green Beans

Yield: 6 portions

This is more or less the restaurant method for cooking green beans — parcooking helps keep the final assembly of the plates faster, and the high heat of the saute pan combined with a splash of water right at the end helps to create an oil-sizzle-and-water coating that holds seasonings onto the beans better than blanching them, buttering them and hoping that the seasoning you add doesn’t drip off with the melting butter.

Taste as you go! Maybe they need more salt at the end. Maybe they’re great! Maybe you want green beans this way forever now.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. green beans 
  • Water 
  • Salt 
  • Butter or vegetable oil 

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it well. Set up a large ice bath — a big bowl of ice water. Trim the green beans or snap the stem ends off by hand.

2. Put the cleaned green beans into the boiling water and cook for somewhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes — the green color will set slightly and darken a bit, and that’s your cue to get the green beans out of there. 

3. Plunge them into the ice bath and let them cool fully. Drain the green beans and store them in the fridge for up to a week. 

4. Heat a couple small knobs of butter (maybe 2 tablespoons) or vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat, and place the blanched and cooled green beans into the pan. Toss them to coat well with the oil and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the green beans are warmed through evenly. 

Once the green beans begin to brown very slightly, add a splash of water and toss the green beans in the pan (this is the time to pan snap, if you can; otherwise, mix well with tongs.) Serve promptly. 

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