It's been an absolutely amazing spring in North Dakota. Temps in the 70s is unheard of, and we've been spoiled the past few weeks with summer-like days at a time when we are most accustomed to hunkering down during a spring blizzard.
Last weekend we went down to the banks of the Missouri River here in Bismarck, where last year's flood has left huge sand deposits along the riverbanks. I'm already picturing long languid summer afternoons on the river sandbars, sunglasses on, a cold iced tea at my side, the coconut smell of sunscreen, the boats cruising by. It's going to be awesome.
We took a little family stroll in the sand this weekend and noticed the shore fishermen out in force. I didn't see many fish reeled in, but I think they were ok with that. After all, we all know they are really out there just to have a reason to sit outside and not do a whole heck of a lot. Talk. Listen. Observe. Enjoy.
My hubby and Grandpa Joe went fishing the next day and brought back a few nice walleye. Dinner! For the record, one of my favorite meals in the whole world is a simple plate of fried walleye. I don't need tartar sauce, I don't need lemon, just a good shake of Shore Lunch and serve it up hot, right out of the cast iron pan. I especially like the thin extra crispy ones. It doesn't get any better than that.
Checking out the day's catch
But I also love Asian flavors and with walleye being such a mild tasting fish, it's perfect to use this dish. Follow this recipe to the letter and you will not be disappointed. However, if you are like me and nibble while cooking, note that the fried fish hot out of the pan is not going to be Shore Lunch tasty, since it is only battered in cornstarch; the real flavor comes in when you pour the sauce over the fried fish.
Fried Walleye with Garlic Chile Sauce
Adapted from Gourmet Today - the green-colored Gourmet cookbook. If you don't already have a copy, get it. There isn't a bad recipe in the bunch, all 800+ pages of it!
1/2 c. chicken stock
3 Tbls. Asian fish sauce
3 Tbls. packed brown sugar
1 Tbls. sriracha sauce (less for the German Russians, up to double for spicemongers)
2 Tbls. white vinegar
1/2 c. cornstarch
1 and 1/2 lbs. walleye fillets
1/2 tsp. salt
Vegetable oil for frying
2 bunches scallions (aka green onions), chopped
3 Tbls. chopped garlic
3 (2" long) dried red chiles (optional)
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Cooked white rice, for serving
Whisk together stock, fish sauce, brown sugar, sriracha, vinegar and 2 tsp. cornstarch in a small bowl until cornstarch and sugar are dissolved.
Pat fish dry and cut into 1" wide pieces. Toss with salt, place in large Ziploc bag, add remaining cornstarch to bag, and shake to coat.
Heat 1" of oil in a wok or cast iron pan until hot. Fry fish in batches until cooked through and pale golden, about 3 mins per batch. Transfer to paper towel lined plate.
Carefully pour hot oil off and wipe pan clean. Return 2 Tbls. oil to pan and heat over high heat until it just begins to smoke. Stir in scallions and garlic (and optional red chiles) and stir-fry until scallions are softened, about 2 mins. Stir fish sauce mixture, stir into scallion mixture, and bring to a boil. Remove chiles, if used. Boil sauce until slightly thickened, about 3 mins.
Transfer fish to platter and pour sauce over fish. Top with cilantro and serve immediately with rice.