This recipe features a fish that was savored by many Indigenous communities, from the First Nations of Ontario to the Ojibwe of what’s now Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota. Caught during the summer in inland lakes and rivers using traps called weirs, walleye was traditionally hung on racks to cook and dry over a fire. In winter, the fish could be quickly boiled and rehydrated for any number of recipes. My modern version skips the drying and rehydrating; instead, it celebrates the flaky white meat of the fresh fish. Again, I’ve taken Indigenous ingredients from another region to round out this recipe—in this case, drawing on the flavors of the Southwest. This light, summery dish is quick to prepare and bursts with the flavors of fresh corn, smoky roasted chilies, and wild mushrooms. If you have to make a choice, use frozen fish and garden-fresh vegetables—their just-picked flavors are tough to replicate out of season. As with all fish, be sure to cook your walleye within a day or two after it’s caught or purchased. Frozen walleye can be kept in the freezer for up to a year.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Brush the corn with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Arrange the corn on a baking sheet and cover with aluminum foil. Roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender. Remove and let cool. Cut the corn from the cobs.
- In a large bowl, add the cornmeal, 1 teaspoon of the salt, the pepper, and cayenne, adjusting the cayenne depending on your desired level of heat. Stir well to combine, then dredge the walleye fillets in the mixture, shaking off excess. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the butter. When the butter is hot, sauté the mushrooms until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the green chilies, corn, and remaining salt and sauté for another 2 or 3 minutes, or until the chilies have softened. Remove from the heat and transfer the contents to a bowl. Set aside. Wipe the pan clean and add the remaining oil. Return to medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the fillets. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until the fish is golden brown and flakes easily with a fork. Remove from the heat and transfer to a serving platter. Spoon the mushrooms, chilies, and corn over the fillets and serve immediately.
Reprinted from New Native Kitchen: Celebrating Modern Recipes of the American Indian by Chef Freddie Bitsoie & James O. Fraioli. Photos by Quentin Bacon. Published by ABRAMS.