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May 03, 2010

Fish of the Month - Lake whitefish

Recently some friends and I gathered together to enjoy a dinner prepared potluck style. The theme of the evening was local cuisine: everyone brought their own dish prepared with the most locally sourced ingredients they could find. Spring vegetables like scallions, Asian greens, and radish were present, as were pasture-raised proteins like eggs and beef. As delicious as the spread looked on the table, I couldn’t help but notice – there was no local seafood!

In this bustling local foods movement, urban and rural dwellers alike are all turning inward to their communities for growing and sourcing fresh foods. But as Midwesterners, we often overlook a source of seafood very near and dear to our own region, the lake fish. Yet right here, in our own backyard waters, we have perfectly healthy and sustainable options accessible for every home cook!

Lake whitefish are a perfect example of a fishery right here in our local environment. Their populations in the wild are stable and robust, and they are especially green when caught with trap-nets, a method of fishing that results in minimal habitat destruction or accidental bycatch. And best of all, they are a snap to prepare! Because they are tender and mild in flavor, whitefish are tastiest when prepared simply – a quick sauté, pan-fry, or grilling is all it takes to cook them up!

These trap-net lake whitefish earn a green listing on our seafood wallet card, so you can enjoy eating both sustainably and locally. For the next potluck dinner I am invited out to, I am definitely representing the local seafood scene!

Great Lakes Whitefish with Tomato Basil Compote
Makes 4 servings.
Download recipe card


4 (6-ounce) boneless and skinless lake whitefish fillets
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 shallots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup chopped ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon fresh black pepper


1) Season whitefish fillets with salt and pepper. In large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add fish and cook on both sides until light golden, about 6-8 minutes total. Remove from heat and set aside, in warm oven or covered with foil.

2) Turn heat to medium-low and add butter to skillet. When hot, add thyme, shallots, and garlic; sauté 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add tomatoes, fresh basil, and sugar; bring to a simmer and cook until sauce thickens, 1-2 minutes total. Season with salt and pepper and serve atop warm fish fillets.

Trap-Net Lake Whitefish w/Port-Pinot Noir Essence
Green Garlic, Favas & Purple Potatoes
Makes 4 servings. Courtesy of Chef Mark Grosz, Oceanique


4 Pieces filet Whitefish w/skin (4oz. each)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea Salt to Taste
Fresh ground Black Pepper
1 cup shelled and halved Fava  beans
2 cup purple potatoes – diced into ¼" pieces w/skin
*1 cup green garlic – sliced in ½" pieces
½ cup flat leaf parsley – roughly chopped
2 tablespoon shallot – minced
½ cup Tawny Port
1 cup Pinot Noir
2oz. unsalted butter

*One of first vegetables of Spring – before garlic bulbs arrive


1) Rub 3 tablespoons Olive Oil, salt & pepper on whitefish.  Slow roast whitefish on non-aluminum sheet pant in pre-heated 250 degree oven for about 10 minutes.  Keep warm.  Meanwhile – boil potatoes in salted water for about 10 minutes or until tender.  Remove from water.  Use same water to blanch green garlic and fava beans until tender.  Mix all vegetables in bowl with 1 tablespoon shallot, 2 tablespoon olive oil, parsley, salt & pepper.

2) Prepare sauce by reducing port and pinot noir with 1 tablespoon shallot until a syrupy consistency.  Whisk in butter slowly over low heat.  Season w/salt & pepper, reserve and keep warm.


Place vegetables on plate with whitefish on top. Arrange a few vegetables on top of fish and spoon sauce around fish.  Serve immediately.

Posted by Kim Stakal, conservation

For additional recipes and information on our Right Bite program check our Fish of the Month page

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