We’re debuting a new summer menu this week at Sarello’s, and I am happy to announce that one of my all-time favorite items has swum its way back into the mix: Parmesan-Pepper Walleye.
Mention walleye to almost any local and you’ll find that we are pretty much crazy about this king of the lake. So what is about walleye that makes it such a local favorite, even for non-anglers? For starters, walleye is widely available throughout our region, even in rural areas where fresh seafood can be difficult to get.
This mild, white lake fish is extremely versatile and can be enjoyed pan-fried, deep fried, oven-baked, grilled – you name it. It is sweet and flaky, with a lightness that contrasts nicely from some richer fish varieties like sea bass or salmon.
We’ve served walleye in a variety of different ways at Sarello’s, but this parmesan-pepper preparation is by far the most popular among our guests. Our son, Gio, isn’t a big fan of fish in general, but even he can’t resist this savory local specialty when it’s prepared this way.
To begin, create a simple breadcrumb coating of Japanese breadcrumbs (a must for this recipe), black pepper, parmesan cheese, granulated garlic and salt. Dredge each walleye fillet first in flour, followed by a quick dip in egg wash, and then coat each piece completely in the breadcrumb mixture.
Next, we fry the fillets in vegetable oil over medium-high heat until golden brown all over, and then transfer them to a baking sheet to be finished off in a 400-degree oven for about 12 to 15 minutes. The breading seals in the heat and ensures that the fish stays moist.
When I prepared this recipe over the recent holiday weekend, I served it with Lemon Aioli and a Caprese Orzo Salad, a combination of flavors which just sings, “Summer is here!” This is one of our all-time favorite meals, and it was a big hit with our entire family. The walleye was crunchy, flavorful and light, and the made-from-scratch lemon aioli made a great alternative to the more conventional tartar sauce, especially for mayo-phobes like Gio and me.
The Caprese orzo salad offers flavors that are mellow, easy, and of the season, just like the walleye. Orzo is the little pasta that looks similar to rice, and we tossed it in extra-virgin olive oil with sliced grape tomatoes, cubes of fresh mozzarella cheese and a little fresh basil, creating great color on the plate.
With a little advance preparation, this is a pretty quick meal to assemble. The breadcrumbs and aioli can be prepared up to one week in advance and set aside until ready to use. Several hours before serving you can bread the walleye fillets and prepare all of the ingredients for the salad: cook the orzo, slice the tomatoes, cube the mozzarella. Give the orzo at least one hour to chill in the refrigerator before adding the other ingredients, and wait to dress it with fresh basil, olive oil and seasoning until just ready to serve.
Once you’re ready to serve, sit back and wait for the wave of oohs and aahs to begin, because this meal is always a crowd pleaser. Then pour yourself a glass of Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, or for even more local flavor try the Bear Creek La Crescent, and savor the satisfaction of a delicious summer meal.
What’s YOUR favorite way to eat walleye? Is there a fisherman/woman in your family? Leave your answer in the Comments below. Happy Summer!