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.
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.
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.
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
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add in half a cup of dry white wine and stir. Saute 1 minute. Add in the rice. Saute another minute.
- 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.
- 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.
- Fry the bacon lardons and remove the brussels from the oven.
- In a medium bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons of the herb mixture and panko breadcrumbs. Make sure to save some herbs for garnish.
- Place the flower and egg mixture in separate bowls.
- Cut the walleye fillets in half and generously salt and pepper both sides.
- 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.
- 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.
- In an oven safe pan, bake off the fillets for 5 minutes.
- Serve with fresh herbs and lemon slices, and enjoy with your lovah.