Anyone who has fileted a fresh pike knows how close to the edge of crazy you can get trying to pull every last Y-shaped pin bone from the fillets. If you want to save the needle-nose pliers for another day, try roasting fresh pike whole. The fish looks appetizing roasted with the tail fin and head intact, and it has room for a few cups of stuffing if you open it up right. You can go with a classic pike stuffing and presentation, such as brochette au four, or get creative and fill your pike with whatever you like.
Things You'll Need
- 1 3- to 5-pound Northern pike, dressed and cleaned
- Tea kettle (optional)
- Paper towels
- Kitchen scissors
- Kitchen knife
- Wood skewer
- Herbs and spices
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
- Roasting or broiling pan
- White wine or other liquid
- Meat thermometer (optional)
Heat about 1 quart of water in a saucepan until steaming. Place the pike in the sink and pour the hot water over the skin to remove the mucus.
Rinse the pike inside and out with cool running water. Run a finger through the gills and mouth, if your pike still has its head, and clean it of any blood or grit, while rinsing.
Pat the pike dry inside and out with paper towels and trim the tail, or caudal fin, into a neat "V" shape using kitchen scissors, if desired. Scrape off any remaining scales with the back of a kitchen knife.
Make a 1/3-inch deep slice lengthwise down the back of the fish using a kitchen knife, starting just behind the head and ending almost at the caudal fin. Make three 1- to 1 1/2-inch long diagonal slices on each side of the pike with the kitchen knife. Splitting the pike down the back makes it easier to cut portions when serving.
Coat the pike inside and out with fat. You can use any fat, but if using butter, use unsalted whole butter to make controlling the seasoning easier.
Insert a wood skewer in the mouth to keep it open during cooking. You might have to shorten the skewer so it fits.
Season the pike inside the cavity and out to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Make a stuffing for the pike, if desired. To make a classic French preparation, such as brochette au four, or baked pike, start by melting 1/4 to 1/2 cup of whole, unsalted whole butter in a saucepan. Add diced shallots, minced garlic and chopped parsley, and season it to taste with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Chill the stuffing in the fridge and let it firm up before using. You can make your own stuffing by substituting your own herbs and aromatic vegetables for those used in brochette au pair, or forgo the butter and stuff it with vegetables only.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Fill the cavity and the split along the back of the pike with the stuffing. Position the pike on its stomach on a roasting or broiler pan. You might have to curl the body a bit to fit it on the pan. You can also place the pike in a baking dish if you have one large enough.
Pour about 1/2 cup of white wine or other liquid in the pan or dish with the pike and place it in the oven. Bake the pike until its eyes turn white and the flesh is opaque, about 30 to 40 minutes. You can also check the temperature using a meat thermometer and take the pike out when it reaches 145 Fahrenheit.
Remove the pike from the oven and cover it loosely with aluminum foil. Let the pike sit for about 5 minutes before serving.
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