In early June, my family went on a trip to visit my brother and his family to see my niece graduate from high school. It was a happy, hectic time. We arrived late on a Friday afternoon to be greeted with a dinner of fried walleye fillets and grilled venison. It was definitely a meal with a nod toward our shared family traditions of hunting and fishing and it was amazing. What's more, when we got back on the road to head home several days later, my brother sent along some of the fantastic fish we'd enjoyed our first evening there. Not even a week later, my plate was overflowing with the best fish tacos I've ever had:
When you have great fish to act as the foundation in a dish like this, you don't need a lot more to make it special. I opted for a spicy cornmeal breading and a quick pan fry in bacon fat. The flavor just can't be beat and it's a great way to use fat that's been rendered from your morning bacon. When it came time to assemble the tacos, I stuck with very simple flour tortillas and enjoyed fresh sliced green onions and grape tomatoes and a little of my own riff on chimichurri that involved swapping the traditional parsley for fresh pea vines, which I happened to have on hand from my CSA box that evening. You could add more or different condiments, but simple is good when it comes to things like this.
Since it was a warm evening, we moved dinner out onto the patio, where the shade kept things cooler and we could kick back and enjoy the meal. Generous slices of watermelon made the perfect side. You could add chips and salsa or the like, but I was happy to open a bottle of hard cider and call it a meal. When you have such amazing food before you and a cool spot to enjoy the wanning day before you, it's easy to let dinner linger for hours and that's just what happened. Welcome to the lazy days of summer!
- 1 lb. fresh walleye fillets (with no skin or bones attached)
- 1/2 c. fine ground cornmeal
- 1-2 tsp. ground chipotle pepper
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. onion powder
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 3-4 T. bacon fat or other frying fat of your choice
- 8-10 8-inch flour tortillas - choose corn tortillas for DF, GF
- Condiments: sour cream, red and green salsa, sliced green onions, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, grated cheese, etc.
Gently pat off any excess liquid from the walleye fillets. If desired, cut the fillets into smaller pieces. You can also opt to fry the fillets whole and break them into smaller pieces when serving them in tacos. Sprinkle the fish lightly with salt and pepper.
In a shallow pan (I like to use a pie plate), combine the cornmeal, ground chipotle pepper, garlic and onion powders, and additional salt and pepper to create a seasoned breading mixture for the fish. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the bacon fat or other fat of your choice until melted and hot. Dredge the fish generously in the seasoned breading mixture on all sides and gently place in the skillet. You may wish to use a splatter screen. Allow the fish to cook on one side for about 4 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully flip the fish fillets or pieces and allow them to cook an additional 4 minutes on the other side. Carefully remove the fish to a serving plate and keep it warm until ready to serve.
To serve, place several pieces of fish on a warmed flour tortilla and top with your choice of condiments. Serve immediately.
- Yields: 3-4 servings
- Preparation Time: 30 minutes