Crusted Walleye with Lemon Risotto and Roasted Brussels

I’m really surprised how uncommon walleye is, because it really is the best. A freshwater fish common in the Midwest, walleye has a non-fishy, delicious flavor and a rich, flaky texture. Unfortunately, it’s quite expensive and can run up to $14 per pound (that might explain why it’s rare). I was lucky to get it for $11/lb. So if you need an excuse to drop money on some fish, Valentine’s Day dinner is perfect. Show your lover you really care by frying up some of the priciest fish at the seafood counter.

Tonight I made an extra crunchy herbed crust for the walleye, paired with lemon risotto and roasted brussels sprouts with bacon. Your Valentine is sure to adore this dinner. And the great thing about this recipe is how easy it is–the hardest part is literally cooking the risotto. I’ve made this fish probably 8 times before, and the end result has been perfectly cooked walleye with a golden brown crust every time.

Extra crunchy crusted walleye on a bed of lemon risotto, with roasted brussels sprouts and bacon…all drizzled in fresh lemon juice.

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Ingredient list, clockwise: olive oil, flour, brussels sprouts, chicken stock, white wine, diced onions, panko breadcrumbs, arborio rice, butter, salt and pepper, 2 walleye fillets, eggs, parmesan cheese, bacon lardons, chopped fresh herbs and lemons.

To prep: Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Dice a sweet onion, chop 6 slices of thick cut bacon into lardons (little squares), wash, trim and halve 1 lb of brussels sprouts, and finely chop 3 tablespoons of fresh herbs. I used parsley, oregano and thyme.

Walleye 121
Place the brussels into a baking pan. Pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste, and mix until evenly covered. Set aside. When you begin pouring chicken stock into the risotto, place the brussels into the oven to bake. They should be done around the time the risotto is finished.

Now for the risotto. I really wish I had a step-by-step risotto tutorial the first time I tried to make it. The main thing you have to remember is that it takes a good amount of time–you cannot rush risotto. Prepare to spend 40 minutes in front of the stove, stirring and adding chicken stock. For some reason, I find this process relaxing and enjoyable.

Start by sauteing the diced onions in butter and olive oil using a large pan or french oven. After about 5 minutes, when they are fragrant and translucent, add in half a cup of dry white wine. Next, pour yourself and everyone hanging out in your kitchen a glass of wine. Saute and stir for a minute, then add 1 cup of rice. Saute another minute.

On medium-low heat, pour in about half a cup of chicken stock (doesn’t have to be exact), and stir. After a couple minutes, when the rice has absorbed the liquid, add a half a cup more. Continue to do this for about 40 minutes, until the rice is completely soft. Stir often. The risotto in the picture above needs about 10 more minutes and a couple more half cups of chicken stock before it’s ready to go.

When the risotto is done, add in salt and pepper to taste, a fourth cup of grated parmesan, the juice of half a lemon, and the zest of a whole lemon. Stir well. Keep the risotto hot by setting the burner to warm. Next, fry up the bacon lardons and prepare to crust the fish.

Cut the walleye fillets in half and generously salt and pepper both sides. Dip each fillet half in flour, then egg, then the crust mixture–panko breadcrumbs and fresh herbs. Pour a generous amount of olive oil into a large pan on high heat. When the oil is hot, place the 4 crusted fillets in the pan skin side up, and fry until golden brown and crispy. Flip and fry the other side until golden brown. Don’t worry about cooking the middle–this step is for getting that crispy outside crust.

If your saute pan is oven safe, throw it right into the oven for 5 minutes. If not, place the walleye fillets in a baking pan and place in the oven to bake off.

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Now it’s time to plate! Start with a bed of the lemon risotto, then add the walleye and brussels. Sprinkle the bacon onto the brussels, and garnish the dish with leftover fresh herbs and lemon slices.

Let me just say, this dish pairs quite well with the rest of the wine in that bottle. The recipe only calls for half a cup of wine, and it’s already been opened, so you really have no choice but to drink the rest with dinner.

Crusted Walleye with Lemon Risotto and Roasted Brussels
Serves 2-4, cook time 1 hour 15 minutes

  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 6 strips thick cut bacon, cut into lardons
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cans or 1 carton of chicken stock (about 3-4 cups total)
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 walleye fillets (any size)
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 eggs, scrambled
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh herbs, finely chopped (I used parsley, oregano and thyme)
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the brussels sprouts, olive oil and salt and pepper into a baking pan. Mix until the brussels are evenly coated. Roast in oven for 40 minutes, or until the brussels are browned and soft. If you put them in the oven when you start adding chicken stock to the risotto, they should be done around the time the risotto is finished.
  3. In a saute pan with high sides or a French oven, saute the diced onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of butter for 5 minutes on high heat.
  4. Add in half a cup of dry white wine and stir. Saute 1 minute. Add in the rice. Saute another minute.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir in the chicken stock a half a cup at a time. When the liquid has been absorbed, add in another half cup, and so on. Stir frequently. When the rice is completely soft, the risotto has finished. This takes about 40 minutes and most of the chicken stock. Measuring the stock is not important–you’ll know when the risotto is done.
  6. Stir in the parmesan, the zest of 1 lemon and the juice of half a lemon to the risotto. Lower the heat to warm and cover to keep hot.
  7. Fry the bacon lardons and remove the brussels from the oven.
  8. In a medium bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons of the herb mixture and panko breadcrumbs. Make sure to save some herbs for garnish.
  9. Place the flower and egg mixture in separate bowls.
  10. Cut the walleye fillets in half and generously salt and pepper both sides.
  11. Assembly line style, dip the fillets in the flour, then egg, then breadcrumb mixture. If you run low on the panko herb mixture, just add a bit more to make sure all the walleye fillets have a nice crust.
  12. In a saute pan on high heat, pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom. When the oil is hot, add in the fillets and saute until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip and saute until the other side is golden brown.
  13. In an oven safe pan, bake off the fillets for 5 minutes.
  14. Serve with fresh herbs and lemon slices, and enjoy with your lovah.


Bacon Wrapped BBQ Shrimp with Cheddar Grits and Collard Greens

This is my first attempt at any sort of southern/soul food. If we are judging success based on the amount of leftovers at the end of the meal, this would be a 10/10. I doubled the recipe, in a vain attempt to have food for Ben and I for the next couple days. By the end of the day, it was all gone. Also of note, if you are planning to make this meal, I would suggest doing so before the new year (if you are planning on any sort of weight-related resolutions). I’m not counting calories until 2014.

I found everything pretty easy to throw together. The only tricky part is the timing – The greens take 45 minutes, the shrimp 20 and the grits are instant. So planning is important if you want everything to be hot all at once.

It may not necessarily look pretty, but this food is incredibly good. The ultimate guilty pleasure, if you will.

ngredient list: SHRIMP: 1 bottle of BBQ sauce, 1.5 packs of bacon, sliced in half, 1 lb of raw shrimp, peeled and deveined. GREENS: 1 bunch collard greens, washed, trimmed and chopped, 1 sliced shallot, 1 minced clove of garlic, 1.5 cups chicken broth. GRITS: 4 packets of instant grits, 1.5 cups freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese, 2 tablespoons butter, 1 cup half n’ half, 4 thinly sliced scallions, salt and pepper.

In a large pan, saute the shallots and garlic in a little oil. Next, add in half the chicken broth and let simmer for about 30 seconds.

Add in the chopped greens, salt and pepper to taste, and the rest of the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Let cook about 45 minutes. Check/stir every 10 minutes.

Next, prepare the bacon wrapped shrimp. In a bowl, toss the bacon strips in enough BBQ sauce to coat all the bacon. Wrap each shrimp in a slice of bacon and place on an oiled baking sheet. Tin foil was a good move here, because scraping off baked-on BBQ sauce is not a fun job. Dribble a little BBQ sauce over the top of the shrimp, and throw them into the oven at 425 degrees F for 20 or so minutes. You know they are done when the BBQ sauce is sizzling and they look almost crunchy.

After you put the shrimp in the oven, make the grits. Empty 4 packets of grits into a bowl, and heat 1 cup of water and 1 cup of half n’ half to a boil. Slowly mix in the water/cream mixture to the grits. Add in the shredded cheddar, butter and salt/pepper to taste. Kind of looks like bland porridge here, but trust me–these are full of flavor.

When the greens have completely wilted and absorbed all the liquid, and the bacon wrapped shrimp are done, it’s time to plate. Top the grits with the sliced scallions, and dig in. The grits, bacon and collards alone may not be particularly impressive, but get all 3 on your fork and take a bite. Soo gooood.

Bacon Wrapped BBQ Shrimp with Cheddar Grits and Collard Greens
Serves 5, cook time 1 hour

  • 1 bunch collard greens, washed trimmed and chopped
  • 1 large shallot, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1.5 cups chicken broth
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 bottle BBQ sauce
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1.5 packs bacon, cut in half
  • 4 packets instant grits
  • 1 cup half n’ half
  • 1 cup water
  • 1.5 cups shredded sharp cheddar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In a large pan, saute the shallot and garlic in a little oil over medium heat, about 2 minutes.
  3. Pour in half the chicken broth and stir.
  4. Add in collard greens, the rest of the broth and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until the greens are completely coated. Bring liquid to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat and cover for about 45 minutes, or until the greens are totally wilted and have absorbed all the liquid. Check and stir every 10 minutes or so.
  6. After you leave the greens to cook, prepare the bacon. Coat the bacon strips in BBQ sauce, and wrap each shrimp in a strip of bacon.
  7. Place the bacon wrapped shrimp on an oiled baking pan covered in foil, and pour a dollop of BBQ sauce onto each shrimp.
  8. Bake shrimp in the oven for about 20 minutes. When the bacon is hardened and crispy, and the BBQ sauce is sizzling, they are done.
  9. When the shrimp have been baking for about 10 minutes, Start on the grits. Empty 4 packets of instant grits into a medium sized bowl.
  10. In a pan, combine 1 cup water and 1 cup half n’ half. Bring to a boil.
  11. Slowly mix in the water and cream mixture with the grits a little at a time. Mix in the butter and shredded cheddar, and salt and pepper to taste.
  12. Take the greens off the heat, take the shrimp out of the oven, and top the grits with chopped scallions.

Tasty Fresh Fried Rice

So. I really, really love fried rice, particularly Thai style. It’s greasy, spicy and loaded with different flavors. I’ve spend years–literally, years–developing this recipe with the goal of creating the perfect fried rice. This includes watching tutorial after tutorial on YouTube, many visits to the oriental market, and once I even called in to a Thai restaurant to ask if they used a certain spice because I was allergic to it. But really, I just wanted to know if they used it. Too far?

Lots of people might think “what’s the big deal? Just toss some rice and soy sauce together and call it good.” Oh, no. No no no. Making quality fried rice is a complicated process that requires preparation, methodology and no cutting corners. The cooking process is really quick–about 10 minutes–but technique, order, and quality of ingredients are key if you want it to taste right.

Piping hot fried rice, served with lime slices and an over easy egg.

Today, I chose to use shrimp and imitation crab meat as the main ingredients. Really, you can use anything–chicken, pork, steak, tofu. Just add it to the wok after the garlic/peppers and before the onions. Also, use whatever veggies you want–diced tomato, basil, peas and carrots, sliced bell peppers, mushrooms. Just make sure to add in the veggies in order of how long they require cooking. Example: If you are using onions, tomato and mushrooms, add the onions first, then mushrooms, and then tomato, since onions take the longest and tomatoes just need a couple seconds.

Some tips before we start:

  • Always use a metal wok and spatula. A Teflon pan just won’t get you the same results because it just won’t get hot enough. My wok is literally over 30 years old, but it’s still going strong! Also, an electric stove just won’t work–you definitely need to cook over a flame.
  • Buy a good soy sauce at an oriental market. The stuff at the grocery store just tastes like salt, and will completely spoil the flavor. My favorite is dark mushroom flavored soy sauce.
  • Cook your rice a day ahead of time and store it in the fridge. Day old rice is dry and loose, and won’t be mushy. If you forget this step, like I do, a couple hours in the fridge is good enough.
  • Use an oil with a high smoking point–peanut or canola oil work the best.
  • Do your self a favor and do not smell the fish sauce. Let’s just say the smell will probably make you want to pour it down the drain. Although it’s rank, adding a little bit to Asian dishes really brings out the flavors. It’s used in every Thai dish you’ve ever eaten.
  • Have all your ingredients measured out, chopped, minced, opened and lined up within arm’s reach. Woks cook food incredibly quickly, and if you aren’t prepared, the cooking process can be extremely stressful.
  • During the cooking process, never stop moving and tossing the ingredients around the wok, to ensure everything cooks evenly without burning. If ingredients are sticking, add a little more oil and scrape the side of the wok so it doesn’t burn.

Spices and sauces: Day old jasmine rice, fish sauce, mushroom flavored dark soy sauce, peanut oil, Sriracha hot sauce, sesame oil, pepper and sugar.

Fresh ingredients, counter clockwise: Minced garlic and Thai chilis, diced sweet onion, eggs, shrimp, imitation crab, scallions and lime slices for garnish.

When the oil is almost smoking, add the garlic and chili peppers for a few seconds. Then add egg and scramble.

Add in onions until caramelized, then seafood. Next, add rice, pepper and butter.

Add soy sauce, then fish sauce, then sugar and sesame oil, a squirt of Sriracha, and throw in the chopped scallions at the end.

Serve hot, with slices of lime and an over easy egg. Try to eat it with chop sticks. When my hand cramps up, I usually admit defeat and switch to a fork halfway through.

Tasty Fresh Fried Rice
Serves 2, cook time 30 minutes

  • 2-3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced fine
  • 1-2 Thai chili peppers, minced fine
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced or sliced
  • 1 package imitation crab meat, broken into chunks
  • 10-12 frozen cooked shrimp, thawed and dried
  • 2 cups cooked, day-old jasmine rice
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons quality soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 generous squirt Sriracha hot sauce, to taste
  • 6 scallions, chopped
  • Lime slices for garnish
  1. Wash, dry, chop, mince, open and measure all ingredients. Set them up in order on the counter top next to the stove. Loosen any clumps in the rice.
  2. Turn the burner on high, and add peanut oil to the wok. When the oil starts to sizzle, add the minced garlic and chili pepper. Using your metal spatula, continuously and vigorously move the garlic and pepper around the bottom of the wok until the garlic starts to brown. If the oil is hot enough, this will only take a few seconds. Be careful here, there’s a very small window between browned and burned.
  3. Add in the eggs. Scramble until dry.
  4. Add in the sliced onions. Toss around the wok until caramelized–about 2.5 minutes.
  5. Add in the imitation crab chunks and shrimp. Toss around until heated and coated in oil, about 1 minute.
  6. Add in the rice, pepper and butter. Toss with your spatula until the grains are evenly coated, about 2 minutes.
  7. Add in soy sauce. Continue to toss the mixture around for another minute, until the soy sauce is evenly distributed in the rice. Add more if the color is too light.
  8. Add fish sauce and sugar. Stir and cook another minute.
  9. Add sesame oil and Sriracha. Stir and cook for another minute.
  10. Add in chopped scallions. Serve hot with lime slices and an over easy egg (optional).

Crab Cakes with Sriracha Remoulade

Crab cakes are one of those things that seem fancy and impressive, when in reality, they can be thrown together in under 15 minutes (if you’re quick) with non-perishable items you likely have in your cupboard. After realizing how easy and inexpensive it is to get near-restaurant-quality crab cakes at home, I now scoff at the $13 appetizer offered at your local fancy restaurant. Thanks, but I think I’ll just bring my own crab cakes from now on.


My recipe for the crab cakes is inspired by this food blogger, who uses fresh crab, and a lot of it. Maybe for special occasions I’ll bust out the fresh crab, but on days like today, I’m opting for the canned lump variety. Crab cakes always need a sauce to go with it. And no, I don’t think tartar sauce makes the cut. I whipped up a simple Sriracha remoulade inspired by this recipe. Since Sriracha may soon be hard to come by, it was difficult to part with even a few drops of what I consider to be the world’s single best hot sauce. On a side note, the city of Irwindale, California needs to suck it up. Burning eyes and headaches are a small price to pay for living in such close range to a Sriracha factory.

Ingredient list: Sriracha hot sauce, olive oil, panko bread crumbs, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, a lemon, an egg, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, parsley, chopped celery and canned lump crab. If you want bigger chunks of crab, go ahead and use 2 cans.

To make the remoulade, mix together mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, salt/pepper, and enough Sriracha until the desired spice level and color are reached.

Mix together the egg, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, red pepper flakes, celery and parsley.

Then, gently fold the crab meat and panko into the mixture, taking care not to break up the crab lumps. Nobody likes a crab cake without crab lumps.

Divide the mixture up into 6 even parts, about 1/4 cup each. Roll them into balls, and then shape into a patty. If the mixture is too runny, add some panko. Too dry, add more mayo.

In a medium non-stick pan, heat olive oil to med-high heat, and add in the crab cakes. Cook on both sides until golden brown, about 5 minutes each side.

Top with the remoulade and serve with slices of lemon.

Crab Cakes with Sriracha Remoulade
Yields 6, cook time 20 minutes

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1-2 tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • 1 large egg
  • 2.5 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1.5 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stalk finely diced celery
  • Dash of red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons parsley
  • 2 cans lump crab meat
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon slices for serving
  1. Make the remoulade by mixing together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add in Sriracha a little at a time until desired spice level has been reached. Set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine egg, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, salt, red pepper flakes, celery and parsley.
  3. Gently fold in panko break crumbs and lump crab meat. Make sure crab is fully drained of liquids.
  4. Divide evenly into 6 patties by rolling into a dense ball and then forming into flat-topped shape.
  5. In a medium non-stick pan, heat olive oil. Once hot, add in the crab cake patties and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Once golden brown, flip patties and cook another 5 minutes. Transfer the crab cakes to a paper towel to remove excess oil.
  6. Top with the Sriracha remoulade and serve hot with lemon slices.


Lazy Man’s Paella

This recipe is for those of you who would like to try your hand at Spanish paella, but don’t have the desire to invest in a paella pan, refuse to purchase the world’s most expensive spice (saffron), and, if you’re like me, cannot handle the grossness that is deveining raw shrimp.

This recipe is loosely adapted from here and from what my mother calls her Saint Augustine dinner, a quick, no-fuss recipe inspired by a paella dish she had in Florida. Traditionally, paella is made with raw shellfish, clams, slices of dried chorizo sausage, lots of saffron, and bomba rice. I cut a few corners to save time and money by using a basic non-stick pan, cooked shrimp, frozen mussels (which was a gross mistake), imitation saffron rice, and the raw packaged chorizo available at the grocery store. The result? A delicious, flavorful one-pot meal that might pass for the real thing.

1.1Ingredient list: Frozen mussels (they were terrible! If you want mussels, definitely buy them fresh. I learned the hard way), frozen cooked shrimp, 2 cans chicken broth, olive oil, salt + pepper, paprika, 2 packages of Vigo yellow rice, 2 sleeves of raw chorizo, garlic, 2 bell peppers, tomatoes (I would double the amount pictured here), and sweet onion.

2Get all your ingredients out, then prep the veggies. Slice the onion and peppers, chop the tomatoes, and mince the garlic. I also remove the shrimp tails, and make sure they’re dry.

In the biggest pan you have, squeeze out both sleeves of chorizo. Don’t be alarmed if it resembles your last bowel movement. Five minutes of sauteing on high heat, and it will turn into the delicious, spicy, greasy sausage that gives the recipe so much flavor. Add the cooked shrimp, and saute until they are hot and covered in the sausage and grease. Remove the shrimp and set aside. Drain the grease.

Next, add the paprika, garlic, tomatoes and onions. Saute over medium heat until the onions are nice and caramelized.

Pour in the salt, pepper, olive oil and chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and add the rice and peppers. Cook on low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed into the rice. The rice should be cooked but not mushy. It was taking longer than expected, so I put a lid on after 15 minutes.

Add the shrimp, and if you have them, nestle in fresh mussels into the top of the rice. Cook on low heat, covered, until the mussels have opened.

And there you have it! Lazy Man’s Paella, ready to serve. I should note that the mussels are basically there as a garnish. Mussels from the frozen seafood section, come to find out, are NOT the same as the fresh variety. Never buy frozen. Always buy fresh. Now I know.

The leftovers heat really well, and the next day we added scrambled eggs. It was a delicious, albeit spicy Sunday breakfast.

Lazy Man’s Paella
Serves 5-6, cook time 1 hour

  • 1 lb package frozen cooked shrimp, defrosted + dried
  • 1 12 oz. package raw chorizo sausage
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes (or a handful of cherry tomatoes), chopped
  • 1/2 large sweet onion (or 1 whole small onion), sliced
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced
  • Salt + pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 packages Vigo yellow rice (10 oz. each)
  • 12 mussels
  1. In a large pan, saute the chorizo sausage on high heat until it’s crumbly and cooked, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add in the shrimp and saute until heated and coated in chorizo and grease. Remove the shrimp and set aside. Drain out the grease.
  3. Add in the paprika, garlic, tomatoes and onions. Saute on medium heat until the onions are caramelized (soft + translucent, sweet to taste), about 7 minutes.
  4. Stir in the salt, pepper, olive oil and chicken broth, and bring mixture to a boil.
  5. Add in rice and peppers. Lower the heat and reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked but not mushy. At 15 minutes, if the rice is still a little hard, cover and cook 5 minutes.
  6. Add the shrimp, and nestle in fresh mussels, hinge side down, into the top of the rice. Cook on low heat, covered, until the mussels have opened. Voila! Serve hot and enjoy.