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October 05, 2011

October Fish of the Month: Lake Whitefish (trap-net)

White-fish More and more, families are spending their weekends at farmer’s markets, savoring handpicked berries, heirloom tomatoes and free-range chicken, all fresh from a farm within arm’s reach. Lately I have been asking myself, where are the Midwestern fish? What happened to the local enthusiasts, like my grandfather, who would only eat fish if it was yellow perch and Friday?

A longstanding belief was built that fresh seafood only exists in seaside towns. Today, over 86% of the seafood Americans consume is imported, too often from fisheries that are unsustainable or farms that practice environmentally-damaging methods. Not only is seafood from around the world not always “fresh,” but the distance it travels charges a hefty price tag to the environment.

The Right Bite team agreed it was time to celebrate a fish closer to home! In honor of National Seafood Month, October’s Fish of the Month is lake whitefish (trap-net caught), primarily from lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior. Trap-nets are better alternative to gillnets, which have higher rates of bycatch (i.e. the accidental catch of other species).

Although whitefish experienced population fluctuations in the mid-20th century due to overfishing, habitat destruction and invasive species, today they maintain a healthy population. Lake whitefish are quick to reproduce and once these ecological pressures were slowed down, they were able to comeback with a bang. In fact, lake whitefish is the centerpiece of the Great Lakes commercial fishing industry and reigns annually as the highest harvested fish.

Lake whitefish is a close family member to salmon and trout, providing a sweet, but subtly rich flavor and is available fresh, frozen or smoked. This October, test out our recipe for Lake Whitefish with Swiss Chard with Ginger-Garlic Cream. You can also find more Midwest sustainable seafood advice in Shedd’s wallet guide for sustainable seafood. To learn more about protecting healthy Great Lakes ecosystems and stopping the spread of invasive species, check out Shedd’s Great Lakes page for more informative tips.

Lake Whitefish with Ginger-Garlic Cream
Serves 4

4 lake whitefish fillets (trap-net caught)
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp. minced ginger
2 tbsp. minced garlic
2 shallots, minced
1 cup vegetable stock
2/3 cup dry white wine
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 bunch Swiss chard leaves
3/4 cup whipping cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Rub fillets with 1 tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper.
3. Add 1 tablespoon ginger, 1 tablespoon garlic and 1 shallot to saucepan with stock, wine and cayenne pepper. Bring to boil and heat until reduced by half, around 10 minutes.
4. While the sauce reduces, place the seasoned fish in an oiled baking dish and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until flaky.
5. Add remaining olive oil to a new sauté pan and heat it over medium-high heat.
6. Add remaining ginger, garlic and shallot to pan and cook for 1 minute.
7. Add chard and cook until wilted and tender, about 4 minutes.
8. Add cream to sauce and boil until thickens, about 5 to 10 minutes.
9. To plate fish, add a bed of sautéed chard and top with the fish. Spoon the ginger-garlic cream sauce over fish and serve warm.

Posted by Brooke Havlik, conservation

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