The Minnesota fishing season is now open and that means that it’s time to get the boats back into the water (as soon as all the ice is gone!) to resume the pursuit of the state’s most sought-after fish, the walleye.
I grew up spending summers at the lake and enjoy fishing when the opportunity arises, which sadly isn’t often enough. Tony, my city-boy husband, grew up in Toronto with Lake Ontario practically in his backyard, but that doesn’t mean he knows anything about fishing, or “the lakes.” He has no interest in these country pursuits; in fact, the very thought of touching a worm is enough to keep him in the concrete jungle of Fargo-Moorhead.
No matter how Gio and I try to sell it, Tony may never understand the lure of life at the lake (pardon the pun), or the thrill of finally catching a fish after hours on the water. But he does enjoy cooking and eating fish, and walleye has become a favorite for both. Before we were married, Tony had never even heard of walleye, even though it is as popular in Canada as in Minnesota. When we first opened Sarello’s, he refused to offer it on the menu, wrongly believing that it couldn’t compete with its cousins from the great big ocean. This was unlike him, as he’d never even tasted it. It took me, and our customers, years to convince him otherwise, but he finally relented and put walleye on the menu.
Tony was surprised and delighted to discover that walleye is indeed a superior fish in every way, delicate and flaky, with a fresh, mild flavor. Walleye made its debut at Sarello’s in 2009, was an instant hit with our guests, and has remained on the menu ever since.
We’ve served walleye in many different styles, but one of my favorite preparations is our current appetizer, Walleye Cakes. Tony’s recipe is a great way to utilize extra fish trimmings, and really showcases this local favorite.
There are a couple key things to know when making fish cakes. First, the fish is the star of the show. Great fish cakes taste good because the main ingredient, fish, is not overpowered by the stuffing. Second, the secret ingredient of a great fish cake is Old Bay Seasoning, a combination of eighteen herbs and spices with a wonderful, zesty flavor. Hornbacher’s in Fargo and Central Market in Detroit Lakes carry it, and your walleye cakes will suffer without it. The cakes be formed three to four days in advance and served either as a main course, or in smaller, bite-size cakes as an appetizer or hors d’oeuvre. Most other fish can be substituted for walleye, including salmon and jumbo lump crabmeat.
We recommend serving the cakes with our Tuscan Bean Salad and Roasted Red Pepper Aioli, and then finish off the meal with our Flourless Chocolate Torte or classic TIramisu. All of these recipes can be prepared in advance, which will leave more time for you to fish.