Tuesday, August 3, 2010

American Summer Vacation Series 2010: Wisconsin Walleye Fish Fry

Walleye. The state fish of South Dakota and Minnesota. A fish native to most of Canada and the northern United States, especially around the Great Lakes, is a favorite in Iron Country, Wisconsin near my mom's home (she is surrounded by small lakes and equidistant from Lakes Superior and Michigan). In Germany, a fishmonger might have a close cousin, the pikeperch or zander on offer. Because of the walleye's nocturnal feeding habits, mom's neighbor Mike went out in the middle of the night to catch a few of these freshwater fish from the adjacent lake. We made sure they didn't go to waste.

Not just pan fried, deep fried. This is Tom, another neighbor, who brought over his gas tank and deep fryer. The guys sat outside in the driveway discussing the upcoming dear hunting season while the breaded fillets bubbled and sputtered in a vat of oil. They came out after everyone opened their second bottle of Spotted Cow beer, golden brown, sweet and flaky.

Fish fries are a beloved tradition in the Midwest. Stemming from the large Roman Catholic population in Wisconsin, and perhaps also attributable to the Scandinavian ancestry of many Wisconsinites, fish fries were offered by most "supper clubs" and local restaurants on Fridays throughout the Lenten season before Easter, when the faithful were prohibited from eating meat. They were so popular that they continued after Easter, throughout the summer; in fact, in many places you can find a fish fry any time of the year. And they're not just for Catholics anymore.

Add a salty orb of butter to the piping hot corn on the cob and a spoonful or two of mom's homemade potato salad, top the fish with a bit of impromptu tartar sauce (mayo and pickle relish) and here you are - a bit of summer in Wisconsin on a plate.

Be sure to stop by next time you are in town!

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