How to Cook Walleye

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A popular game fish across the Midwest -- especially in Minnesota, where it's the state fish -- walleye is equally cherished by cooks for its large, firm, white fillets. It's typically served fried or deep-fried, but there's no reason to limit your options to one cooking technique. Like other white-fleshed fish, either saltwater or freshwater, walleye lends itself to a number of tasty preparations.

Things You'll Need

  • Salt and pepper, and other seasonings as desired
  • Oil or melted butter

Walleye "En Papillote"

  • Clean and fillet the walleye, carefully checking each fillet to ensure you've removed all the rib bones. You can leave the skin on or remove it, as you wish, but the fish must be scaled before filleting if you want to eat the skin. Cut the fillets into individual serving portions of 4 to 6 ounces.

  • Cut squares or circles of parchment paper, more than twice the size of the walleye portions. Make a small mound of sliced green onions, fresh herbs or other aromatic ingredients, if you wish, and nestle a walleye portion on top of it.

  • Season the fillets generously with salt and pepper, or other flavorings as desired. Lift the edges of the parchment paper and bring them together. Fold them over, so they overlap by at least 1/4 inch, and pinch the edges to make a sharp crease. Repeat at least twice, so the parchment makes a moisture-tight seal. Place the sealed pouches on a baking sheet, with the seam facing up.

  • Bake the sealed pouches in a preheated oven. Any temperature between 350 degrees Fahrenheit and 400 F is appropriate, so you have some flexibility if the walleye will share the oven with other dishes. They'll cook in as few as 6 or 7 minutes at the higher temperature, or 8 to 10 minutes at the lower temperature.

  • Remove your walleye from the oven when the parchment parcels are brown and puffed like balloons with steam from the cooked fish. Place each parcel on a plate with your choice of side dishes, and open them -- carefully -- at the table, where the aromatic steam adds both a sensory pleasure and a degree of showmanship to the meal.

Broiled Walleye Fillet

  • Fillet your walleyes, either scaling or skinning them. Broiling your walleye skin-on helps protect the delicate flesh from your broiler's heat, but it's entirely a question of personal preference. Leave the fillets whole or cut them into individual portions, if they are large.

  • Place a rack in your oven's top position, so the fillets will cook just 3 to 4 inches below the broiler's element. Turn on your broiler to preheat.

  • Spray or brush the fillets with oil or melted butter, and season them liberally with salt and pepper or other flavorings. Place the fillets on your broiler pan, or a sheet pan lined with foil and sprayed lightly with oil. Space them evenly, so they don't touch. Place skinless fillets skin side down, and skin-on fillets skin side up.

  • Broil the fillets for 6 to 10 minutes, depending on their thickness, until the flesh is barely translucent in the thickest portion of the fillet. Turn skin-on fillets midway through cooking, if you wish, after the skin has crisped and browned.

Baked Walleye

  • Clean and fillet your walleye, scaling it first if you prefer your fillets skin-on. Leave them whole or cut them into individual portions, as desired.

  • Brush the fillets with oil or melted butter, to protect them from the drying effect of the oven's heat. Arrange them on a parchment-lined sheet pan or in a shallow, oiled baking dish. Season liberally with salt and pepper, fresh herbs or other flavorings as desired.

  • Top the fillets with buttered breadcrumbs, if desired, or a sauce.

  • Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 18 to 25 minutes, until the fish is barely translucent at its thickest point. Thin fillets will take less time; thick fillets or fillets in sauce will require more.

  • Serve hot, with your favorite side dishes. If the walleye was cooked in a sauce, spoon the sauce over each portion after it's plated.

Tips & Warnings

  • Walleye cooked "en papillote" essentially steams in its own juices, leaving its own mild flavor at the fore. Including aromatics to the pouch, or adding a splash of local Midwestern white wine or cider, brings extra flavor that can complement your chosen sauce or side dishes.
  • If you'd rather not fuss with parchment, you can obtain a similar result by steaming the fillets conventionally in a bamboo steamer, resting the fillets on a bed of aromatics and adding your wine to the steaming liquid.
  • Fresh herbs, breadcrumbs and Parmesan or other dry cheeses will burn quickly in the heat of the broiler. Place herbs under the fillet rather than on top, and add Parmesan or buttered breadcrumbs midway through the cooking time.
  • If you broil whole fillets, the thin tail portions will overcook before the thickest part of the fillet is done. You can cut off the tail portions and reserve them for another meal, or fold the tail beneath the rest of the fillet to make that section thicker.
  • To make "stuffed" walleye, fill your baking dish with mounds of bread-, grain- or vegetable-based stuffing and rest a fillet portion atop each mound. The fillets' cooking juices will soak into the stuffing as the fish cooks. Alternatively, mound similar ingredients on top of the fillets, where they'll protect the walleye's delicate flesh from the heat of the oven.

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