I thought I knew a good fish fry, until I moved to Minnesota, where the state fish, the ever-famous walleye, was a game changer. I had fried everything from bass to cod to trout during my years in the Pacific Northwest. While I thoroughly enjoyed those suppers, nothing quite beats a walleye—the way it melts in your mouth, how its flavor balances perfectly with spices inside a golden-brown crust.
Aside from their taste, walleye are a pure joy to target—whether on the hard or open water. Every time I see those nebulous-black orbs appear below the water’s surface, a jig canted on its jaw, my chest beats like a row of congas outside ballpark turnstiles. When I landed a 3-pounder last summer in Canada, once it was safely in the boat, I could feel my calves on fire, as if I had been on ice skates for the past 2 hours.
The adrenaline rush is real, and so is the flavor.
But, like any wild game or fish, there are ways of maximizing taste. Buttermilk is one method for tenderizing proteins. Additionally, when fish or game coated in buttermilk gets thrown through dredge, flour adheres to the fat within buttermilk and seals in moisture, resulting in both a golden-brown crust and succulent-tasting fish.
RECIPE VIDEO ON YOUTUBE:
Makes three servings.
Four 4.5-ounce walleye fillets, skinned and halved
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons “Hennessy’s Walleye Seasoning” (listed below)
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
Hennessy’s Walleye Seasoning
1-1/2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/4 tablespoon paprika
1/4 tablespoon dry thyme
2 teaspoons white pepper
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne
3 large russet potatoes (enough to yield approximately 6 to 7 cups when mashed), cubed
Half a medium green cabbage head, sliced into 2-inch strips
6 tablespoons butter (divided use)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 large cloves fresh garlic, smashed
2 teaspoons kosher salt (divided use)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon white sugar
2 teaspoons white pepper (divided use)
2 tablespoons diced scallions
Garnish (optional): freshly minced parsley
To prep cabbage and potatoes: Halve a medium-size cabbage, cut out stem. Cut cabbage (parallel to stem location) into thin strips. Cut into half to create 2-inch strips. Heat a large skillet on medium-high and place 2 tablespoons of butter into skillet. Add sliced cabbage and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Stir often until cabbage strips acquire golden-brown color. Turn off heat.
Wash potatoes and cut into cubes (all should be roughly same size for even cooking). Add to large pot and cover with water. Bring pot of potatoes to a boil on stove. Potatoes are finished when every cube can be easily mashed with a fork. Drain water and set aside.
To prep cream mix: While potatoes boil, add 1 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup chicken stock to a small pot. Add 2 large cloves of fresh garlic (peeled and smashed) and 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, along with 1 teaspoon each of following: kosher salt, white pepper, white sugar. Let simmer until liquids have reduced to half.
To prep fish for fry: Remove skin from walleye fillets and cut fillets in half. Place in a large bowl and cover with buttermilk, place in refrigerator. Allow to soak for minimum 30 minutes (max 2 hours). In a deep sauté pan, heat half inch of oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix flour and spices in large bowl or deep platter.
To fry fish: Once oil is heated, throw fish through flour dredge. Shake off any excess flour. Toss fish in oil. Two pieces is ideal amount for pan frying. More than three, you fish pieces may not brown as well. Turn pieces with tongs once underside turns golden. Remove with all sides are golden and fish is cooked thoroughly. Set aside on a newspaper- or napkin-covered plate to soak up grease.
To assemble colcannon: Add cooked potatoes to large mixing bowl. Drain cream pot contents through sieve into mixing bowl. Stir thoroughly while mashing and folding potatoes into cream. During this process, add 2 tablespoons of butter. Add cooked cabbage, continue to stir. Add another 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 teaspoon of white pepper. Salt to taste. Once mixture is fairly creamy, add scallions.
To serve: Add two to three walleye pieces to plate. Place a scoop of colcannon next to walleye and a pat of butter atop colcannon. Garnish with freshly minced parsley (optional).