Make delicious Pickerel in the Shallows with local ingredients

foraged pickerel roasting in a cast iron skillet over rocks while someone spoons butter overtop Pickerel in the shallows. Photo by Kamil Bialous

Native Ontario pickerel (a.k.a. walleye) and cattails aren’t next-door neighbours, but Derek Blais has them meet in this dish, following his philosophy that “stuff that’s together in an ecosystem tastes really good together.”

4 tbsp butter (divided)
Handful of fresh lemon thyme
1½ lbs scaled, skin-on pickerel fillets, cut into 3″–4″ pieces
¼ cup white wine
12–16 cattail hearts, 3″–4″ long
Sunchoke Purée
1 tsp white-pine vinegar or white-wine vinegar (divided)
Flaky sea salt, to taste
Small handful sorrel and nasturtium leaves, and onion flowers and/or garlic scapes, for garnish (optional)

1. Heat a large cast iron frying pan over a campfire (or on a barbecue), and melt a generous chunk of butter to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the lemon thyme, and stir for 5 minutes.

2. Add the pickerel, skin side down, and fry for 5–7 minutes, spooning butter over the pieces of fish as they cook. When they’re golden-brown on the bottom, flip, adding more of the butter and a healthy splash of wine. Cook 2–3 minutes longer, until the second side is also golden brown. Move frying pan to the edge of the fire to stay warm.

3. Heat a smaller cast iron frying pan over the fire. Melt more butter, and sauté the cattail hearts until the edges are golden and they are heated through, about 3 minutes.

4. To serve, spread a circle of warm Sunchoke Purée on each plate, top with 2–3 pieces of pickerel and a few cattail hearts. Sprinkle the fish with ¼ tsp of vinegar per plate and sea salt to taste. Garnish with the leaves, flowers, and garlic scapes (if using). Serves 4.

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