Fried Lake Fish

Serves 4
Mine was a youth spent in Windsor, Ontario, on the Detroit River, smack-dab in the middle of the Great Lakes, with their myriad lake fish: walleye pike, perch, lake trout, largemouth bass. If you weren’t out on your boat catching the fish yourself, you were at a roadhouse scarfing down fried fillets and spinning the lazy Susan around to bring your favorite relish within reach.

Those roadhouses constitute my first restaurant memories: rollicking joints where families and laughing children shared the room with beer-drinking buddies. Perch and walleye pike are staple fish of Midwestern roadhouses, but you can use any thin, firm, white fish fillets.


  • 4 (6-ounce) pike or perch fish fillets
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Wondra flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for garnish


  1. Season fish fillets with salt and pepper and dust with flour.
  2. Heat butter and oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place fish in skillet, skin side down, and cook 4 minutes, until skin is crispy and brown. Gently turn fish and continue cooking, just until cooked through and fish flakes when pierced with the tines of a fork, 3-4 minutes more.
  3. Transfer fish to serving plates, garnish with lemon wedges, and serve immediately with a Relish Platter.
cook's note
Panfry Success: Start with tempered fish: in spite of popular wisdom, fish should be at room temperature when cooked, just like meat. So give it 10 minutes out of the fridge or cooler before frying. Then, when it hits the hot pan, it will head straight to golden crispy instead of steaming as it comes up to temperature. All you need is some superfine flour (Wondra), seasoning, and the hot fat sizzling in the pan—the butter brings flavor, but the oil heats to the higher temperature necessary for that golden patina. For crispy skin, start skin side down, then flip. If necessary, add more butter or oil and flip again.
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Photo by Jonathan Lovekin