May 21, 2007
The Yellow Perch and
the Energy Mavens
of the great frauds perpetrated on the eating public is the labeling of
the yellow perch as a panfish.
It’s obvious how this happened. The yellow perch is small enough that
one can easily be covered in corn meal and cooked in a frying pan in a
fisherman’s campsite. And, like other panfish, it is small enough that
several must be eaten before any neutral observer would certify it a
meal of reasonable size. (Some argue that eating one is a matter of
economy, but they have probably expended four times more energy than
what they gained . . . a deficit energy
expenditure that, if continued, would land them soon in eating’s version
of bankruptcy – starvation.)
But what sets apart the yellow perch? Only someone who’s never eaten
yellow perch would ask that. Feel free to snub anyone who asks it, and
take the next opportunity to ridicule them in public. Tough love still
has its place.
Suffice to say that the yellow perch is a frequent meal of its cousin,
the larger and equally delectable walleye. As mom used to say, if you
want to know where to eat, follow the truckers. Or was it, don’t eat the
berries the birds won’t? Anyway, if you want to know which fish to eat,
ask another fish. Or, in the event of an insurmountable communications
barrier, eat what they eat (it is through this that we now know the
common earthworm to be wholly underappreciated as food).
There are many ways to cook yellow perch. The simplest is to throw them
into a pot of boiling water, pull out when white and curled, and eat
them with cocktail sauce like they are common shrimp (shrimp, the worms
of saltwater fishing . . . think about it, won’t you?).
This might go over well as an appetizer, but a guest might look at a
pile of boiled perch and, not recognizing that you could dredge it
through the water pooled up in the bottom of your garbage can and it
would still taste delicious, wonder whether you could be taken seriously
as a person. (If they’ve never eaten perch, remember to return the
favor, loudly and publicly.)
avoiding social unpleasantries is your bag, and bless you if it is, then
split the difference by placing yellow perch fillets skin side down in a
baking dish. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
a small dish, blend together breadcrumbs and shredded Parmesan cheese
(if kick is your thing, consider shredded Romano cheese). Some people
might tell you that breadcrumbs must be toasted. And, certainly, going
by the standards of fairy tales, the bread is typically hardened by
removing all moisture. However, you are advised to use the still-good
end of a bread loaf for crumbs.
What’s the difference? If you have a tongue adept at noticing subtle
differences in texture, you will be rewarded. But, there is no point
torturing people without skilled tongues by identifying what they’re
missing out on. If life can be cruel, then sometimes it is not. This is
one of those times.
Once blended, add ground black pepper and perhaps chopped fresh parsley.
You might consider some fresh thyme or even a little grated lemon peel
(emphasis on little, since breaking the fine line between enough and too
much means allowing your fish to be overwhelmed by an invasion of
citrus). By all means, when feeling froggy, jump.
Cover your fish with your crumb-cheese mixture, and over the top drizzle
melted butter. If you have skipped the lemon peel, and still want to hop
aboard the citrus train, consider adding a drop or two of fresh lemon
juice to the butter.
Pop the baking pan into the oven, and wait until the fish flakes easily
with a fork. How much time will this take? Don’t get so wrapped up in
specifics that you miss the big picture. You want fish that is cooked
properly, not punctual. If you insist on going out and running errands
with your dinner cooking in the oven, you have maybe 15 minutes.
quick warning here: When you lay your fish in the pan and cover it with
your crumb-cheese blend, you might say to yourself, “There is a lot
there. Perhaps the raving derelict yelling at cars on the street corner
would like a home-cooked meal, too.” However, the fillets will shrink,
and too many mouths could send you towards an energy deficit that, left
unchecked, will land you in bankruptcy.
© 2007 North Star Writers
Group. May not be republished without permission.
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