Anglers across the northern half of the United States know that yellow perch is almost as exciting on the table as it is on the hook. And whether you take your perch through the ice or on the open water, a full cooler of lively fish is going to make your family happy.
Perch sport firm, white flesh with a consistency similar to Atlantic cod, making them a versatile choice in the kitchen. And while fried perch never fails to satisfy, there’s no reason to stick to the traditional fry-up.
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Related: Perch Fishing Tips
As with any fish, fresh is always best, but carefully frozen, slowly defrosted perch is still a treat. I recommend against thawing it in a microwave or warm water, as both techniques will slightly cook the fish and change its texture. Instead, just let the fish--safely contained in a sealed Ziploc bag--slowly thaw in cool water.
I particularly like to keep my perch whole and head-on. This may seem strange, but it keeps them juicier. As a general rule, the more intact the fish, the better it can retain its moisture during cooking. Give it a try--you’ll be impressed!
To prepare perch for cooking in this way, just be sure to clean them well. You’ll want to remove all the scales and search the ventral cavity for any lingering bits, especially dark patches along the spine. Finally, pluck their gills out, and the fish are ready to go.
Some of these recipes call for fillets, so if you’re not sure how to turn an intact perch into two beautiful fillets, watch this video:
After a day on the ice, absolutely nothing’s better than a steaming bowl of chowder made with your fresh catch.
This recipe comes from Elise Bauer.
Over medium heat, add the oil and butter to your pot. When the butter begins to foam, add the onions and saute until transparent.
Add the wine, leave the pot uncovered, and reduce liquid by approximately half.
Add the potatoes, clam juice, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper, and Old Bay. Add water, if necessary, to just cover the potatoes. Bring back to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium and cook, covered, until the potatoes are almost done, about 10-15 minutes.
In a separate pot, heat the cream until steamy (not boiling).
Add the fish to the pot and add the heated cream. Reduce heat to low, and cook, uncovered, until the fish is just cooked through, about 10 minutes. You’re looking for gentle heat--less than a simmer.
When the fish is just cooked through, remove from heat, add parsley, and let the soup rest for 30 minutes before serving.
This recipe is our own twist on tacos from Natasha’s Kitchen. We find that grilling the perch provides a beautiful smokiness to this fresh Mexican dish.
Prep. time: 45 min.
Serves four to six
For the sauce, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, lime juice, garlic powder, and Sriracha in a small bowl and whisk until blended.
Heat your grill to medium. Brush the perch fillets with olive oil, and season with cayenne, salt, black pepper, and cumin. Place on your hot grill, cooking for 2-3 minutes on each side, turning carefully. Non-stick spray can help keep the fish intact, but be sure to follow the product’s recommendations.
When the perch is cooked through, remove it to a cutting board, and use a fork and knife to separate it into small chunks.
Warm the tortillas on the grill and reserve them on a plate.
To assemble, place a generous portion of grilled perch into each tortilla. Top with cabbage, avocado, tomato, red onion, cilantro, cheese, and the taco sauce. Squeeze a lime over the top and enjoy!
Grilled fresh perch is a real treat, and this easy preparation is ideal for summer barbeques.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Serves 4 to 6
Prepare your grill.
Rub each whole perch with olive oil and salt and pepper inside and out. Over medium heat, gently grill your fish for 4 to 5 minutes a side. Minimize turning, and use a spatula and long-handled tongs.
When pierced with a sharp knife near the backbone, done fish should be white rather than pink, and any juices should be clear.
Move to a serving tray and sprinkle the tomato, olive, and caper garnish over your perch. An additional drizzle of olive oil is a nice touch, too.
Easy to make and surprisingly elegant, this poached perch recipe is a throwback to classical French cuisine.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In an oven- and stove-top proof baking tray, sprinkle half of the green onions and garlic. Season the fillets with salt and pepper to taste, and arrange in the tray. Sprinkle the remaining onions and garlic, dot each fillet with some of the cut butter, and carefully pour the liquid into the tray.
You’re looking to barely cover the fillets with liquid.
On the stove-top, bring the liquid to a gentle simmer and cover with wax paper. Move the covered tray to the bottom third of your oven and cook for 8 to 12 minutes or until a sharp knife pierces the flesh easily.
Transfer the fish to a serving plate, and douse with some of the poaching liquid.
This is the simple, time-honored way to fry fish on your stove. I’ve done this hundreds of times, and it’s always a good idea!
Prep. time: 30 min.
Pour one inch of canola oil into the bottom of a deep skillet or pot, and place over medium heat. As the oil heats to 350 degrees, pour slightly more than ½ cup of Zatarain’s or Louisiana Fish Fry into a medium paper bag or Tupperware-style plastic storage bin with a secure lid. Add a few perch fillets at a time, tossing gently to coat them well with the fish fry.
When the oil has reached the measured cooking temperature, carefully add a few fillets at a time, avoiding crowding the pan. Continue to monitor the oil temperature during cooking--it will drop as you add the fish but come back up to temp soon.
Cook until golden brown, turning fish once. Remove the finished perch, and cool on an oven rack over a cookie sheet.
Serve with lemon wedges, tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, or ketchup.
While I like panfish of all kinds, perch really stand out for their versatility, especially as you move beyond frying.
Give some of these recipes a try, and let us know how they turned out.
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