Recipe: Onion-Crusted White Perch
On several occasions, I have listened to tales from old-timers who recounted catching bucketloads of sea-run white perch “back in the day.”
“Tasty little buggers!” A salty old fellow once told me. “Fry ‘em up, nice and crisp, mmm… mmm… good!”
But other than hearing these historic tales from the past, the existence of brackish-water white perch in my home waters, to me, had been nothing short of urban legend.
But a few years ago I received a tip on finding “salter” white perch from a very reliable source. A gentleman told me the key is finding the right water. These fish thrive in water with low salinity. Creeks and ponds that flood with seawater only during extremely high tides, or during storm surges, are the best places to find them. These areas receive just enough salt to prevent species like bass and pickerel from taking up residence. White perch, on the other hand, are quite capable of adapting to fluctuations in salinity, so they thrive in these conditions with little or no competition.
So I took the man’s advive, and sought out suitable areas in my hometown. Low and behold, I found one.
I’d driven past the small creek hundreds of times. Its stained, brackish water always looked bleak, stagnant, and lifeless. Little did I know, it was in fact a hidden gem, located smack dab in plain sight.
Upon reaching the bank, I looked down at the rocks and, to my surprise, they were dotted with small barnacles. This was certainly a welcome sight, a testament that the water was indeed brackish.
Sure enough, I hooked up on my first cast. It was a rather small specimen, perhaps only 6 inches long, but reason for rejoicing nonetheless. I released the little fellow back into the ice-cold water, with a smile on my face and thoughts of a fish fry dancing in my head. Over the course of the next half hour, I caught several dozen fish, six of which were above the legal size limit. Mission accomplished!
The six perch resulted in just over a pound of fillets, enough to provide two solid meals for my wife and I. The first night, I took the old-timer’s advice. I kept things simple and fried them up, nice and crisp. Mmm… mmm… good!
The fillets were firm and white – more tender than striper but with a very similar flavor, yet more delicate and sweet. They tasted like a cross between striped bass and black sea bass.
The following night I decided to experiment with the following white perch recipe. Outstanding!
I found it at Lories Mississippi Kitchen’s website while searching for white perch recipes. Although the recipe bears my name, sadly I cannot take credit for it. It comes from some guy named Andy who lives in Mississippi and is a certified white perch fanatic.
I had never heard of (or tasted) french-fried onions before. They intrigued me, so I ran down to the supermarket and found them. Look for them in the canned vegetable aisle. They are delicious!
Pictured above: French’s French Fried Onions is some good stuff!
ANDY’S ONION-CRUSTED WHITE PERCH RECIPE
- 2 pounds white perch fillets (or other fish)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Creole seasoning
- 1 (6-ounce) package french-fried onions, finely crushed
- Lemon wedges
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay fillets out in a ceramic baking dish just large enough to hold them. Brush with olive oil and dust with a little creole seasoning, then sprinkle the tops with the crushed fried onions. Bake at 350 for 15 to 18 minutes or until fish begins to flake apart.
Serve fish with creole sauce and lemon wedges.
Easy Creole Sauce:
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
- 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
This was one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long time. Try it! This recipe would also work well with any fish that have thin fillets, such as flounder, scup, trout, etc.
This article was originally published online in April 2019.