Fresh walleye dishes are a particular favorite among those who appreciate great fish, and with darn good reason: it’s one of the best-tasting fish in the world, rivaling even the much more popular saltwater species.
So it stands to reason that you’ll want to use every single edible part of this freshwater treasure. Jeremy Smith of Lindner’s Angling Edge has caught and cooked more walleye than most of us will ever see in a lifetime, and in this Mercury Cook Your Catch video, he’s going to show you how to cook two small – but oh-so-delicious – cuts that you may have never even heard of: walleye cheeks and wings. This Asian-style recipe uses basic ingredients and is easy to prepare, so won’t need to visit a specialty food store and spend hours preparing it.
Cheeks come from just behind each eye of the fish, and the wing is the fleshy portion just behind the jaw and in front of the pectoral fins on the underside of the fish. Granted, the cheeks and wing from a single fish won’t make much of a meal, but they’re easy to get to and cut away intact. So if you have enough fish to amass a pound (or even a half pound) of these cuts, don’t waste the opportunity to enjoy walleye in this new way.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
- ½ serrano pepper
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1½ tablespoon mirin
- 1½ tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- A few drops of sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2/3 cup cornstarch
- Fry oil
- Finely chopped scallion and sesame seeds for garnish
- ½-1 pound of walleye wings and cheeks
- First, you’ll need to excise the wings and cheeks from your freshly caught walleye. You’ll definitely need to watch the video for this part, but here’s the operation from a high level:
- The cheeks are what you’d imagine: the meat right behind the eye and in front of the gill opening on each side. A bit of quick work with your fillet knife will extract a good-sized nugget of meat, fully skinned, in just a few seconds with a little practice.
- The wing (or collar, as it’s also known) is the meat located in the triangle created by the lower jaw and the two pectoral fins, and it can be removed with a fillet knife or a sharp pair of scissors.
- Note: The cheeks and wings are much smaller than traditional fillets, so you’ll need quite a few fish to amass enough for a meal. Don’t let that scare you away, however, as this meal is absolutely worth the effort.
- Begin cooking by putting a large saucepan on medium heat and adding the olive oil, grated ginger and minced garlic. Let it cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until the mixture is softened up.
- Add a few thin slices of serrano pepper and stir them into the sauce. Then add the soy sauce and oyster sauce and stir again.
- Add the mirin, rice vinegar, brown sugar, honey and sesame oil, stirring between adding each ingredient. Turn the heat down to low and continue stirring until it is reduced to the point where it starts to stick to the spoon, then remove it from the heat and set it aside.
- Next, you’ll need to deep fry the walleye meat. Put about an inch of your favorite cooking oil in a cast iron pan* and heat it up to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- * You can also use a deep fryer, or whatever your favorite method is for frying fish.
- Put the corn starch and a little salt and pepper into a disposable, resealable plastic bag, and drop in the fish. Shake gently to get a light, consistent breading on each piece of fish.
- Important: Do not fry cheeks and wings together. The size variance between the two will make it almost impossible to get them consistent.
- Whichever you’re frying, leave them in until you get a light golden color and crispy consistency. But take care that you don’t get them overdone as you don’t want to spoil that great walleye taste profile.
- When you pull the fish out of the oil, scatter the pieces out on a cooling rack so the excess oil can drip away. Be sure to put papers towel under the rack to make cleanup easier.
- Warm the sauce back up for just a few minutes, then put a few pieces of fish at a time directly into in the saucepan and toss them around so each gets a nice coating of sauce. Once all the pieces are in the serving bowl, drizzle the remaining sauce over the top, and garnish with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and chopped scallions.
- Serve with rice and a fresh steamed vegetable, or use for an appetizer.
There you have it, a gourmet-style meal made from delectable cuts of walleye that you’ve probably been ignoring your entire life. One taste of Jeremy Smith’s walleye wings and cheeks, however, and you’ll never overlook these tasty morsels ever again.