Lake Ontario Yellow Perch Ukha, Perch Fritters, and Perch Roe Croutons

Russian Cuisine - Perch Ukha

When I posted about my recent yellow perch frenzy on Lake Ontario, I forgot to mention one important fact that connects my ice fishing endeavors to the theme of this blog: yellow perch is closely related to the European perch, which is very popular with anglers in Eastern Europe.

In kitchens back in Mother Russia, perch is often smoked, fried, baked, or boiled, and served with all kinds of vegetables and mushrooms. It’s often the fish of choice for making ukha, a Russian fish soup that’s almost as thin as a broth.

Your typical ukha is made by tossing chunks of fish, vegetables (especially the inevitable potatoes) and herbs (including the no-less-inevitable dill) in a pot with water, and simmering until done. It wouldn’t be unusual to prepare it over a fire right there on the river bank after catching the perch (outside of big cities at least; don’t try this on the Moscow River).

My version is definitely an upgraded ukha, and as such it’s a bit more complicated to make that simply tossing chunks into a pot. It’s worth the extra effort, though, as the croutons and fritters bring the perfect taste and texture contrast. I imagine you could still do it on the river bank, but you’d better come well equipped.

The perch fritters use a modified version of my langos dough, with hard cider added to turn it into a thick batter. The fritters are great by themselves, but they taste even better once you soak them in the soup.

The perch roe croutons are a more evolved version of my perch roe toasts. This time, the perch roe is smoked, which makes the flavor a bit more pronounced and interesting, and the melted cheese on top adds a silky (as in greasy, but in a good way) mouthfeel to the whole. I would happily stuff my face with these, without the ukha, but they make for great soup croutons in the French tradition. 

Russian Cuisine - Perch Ukha

Smoked perch roe
Yields about 8 servings

4 oz cured perch roe

  • Transfer the roe into a plastic container, place the container into a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap (you can check out my smoked sulguni recipe for pictures of the setup).
  • Load a smoking gun with your favorite wood chips, turn on, and light up. Fill the bowl with smoke, and let permeate the roe for 2 minutes.
  • Take the container of roe out of the bowl, and stir gently. Cover, and refrigerate for 12 hours.

Fish stock
Yields 4 servings

24 oz fish trimmings (heads and bones)
1 oz olive oil
salt
black pepper, ground
9 oz white wine
40 oz water
6 oz peeled onion, large dice
3 oz peeled carrot, large dice
3 oz celery stalk, large dice
1  peeled garlic clove
1 clove
1 bay leaf

  • In a pot over high heat, sauté the fish trimmings in the olive oil until brown on all sides.
  • Season with salt and pepper, add the white wine, and simmer for 2-3 minutes to cook off the alcohol.
  • Add the water, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, clove, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes.
  • Pass the stock through a chinois, and refrigerate. When the stock is cold, skim the fat from the surface, and discard any deposit from the bottom.

Fish batter
Yields 4 servings

2 oz peeled Yukon gold potato
1/4 packet (1.8 g) active dry yeast
3/4 tsp sugar
2.6 oz milk, lukewarm
3.5 oz flour
1/8 tsp salt
0.5 oz butter, melted
2 oz hard cider

  • Place the potato in a pot of water, and cook over medium heat until very soft. Mash the potato, and measure 1.3 oz.
  • Dilute the yeast and sugar in about 1/3 of the milk, and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Sift the flour into the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, then mix in the salt. On low speed, mix in the yeast mixture and the rest of the milk.
  • Add the butter, hard cider, and mashed potatoes. Beat for another minute, then cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for about 1 hour.

Perch roe croutons
Yields 4 servings

4 small slices of French baguette
about 0.2 oz butter
2 oz smoked perch roe
1 slice (about 0.5 oz, 4″x4″) aged gruyere

  • Toast the baguette slices until golden brown.
  • Spread the butter on the toasts, then generously top with perch roe.
  • Cut the gruyere into four pieces, cover each toast with one piece, and melt the cheese using a blow torch.

Perch fritters
Yields 4 servings

canola oil, for deep-frying
6 medium perch fillets, cleaned (about 3 oz)
fish batter
salt

  • Heat the canola oil to 375 F in a deep-fryer.
  • Cut each perch fillet in half, then dip each half in the batter until coated on all sides.
  • Drop the fish into the deep-fryer and cook until golden brown, flipping each fritter once.
  • Drain on paper towels, and season with salt.

Russian Cuisine - Perch Ukha

Ukha
Yields 4 servings

fish stock
3.5 oz peeled carrots, sliced
3 oz cleaned leeks, thinly sliced
2 oz scallions, sliced
salt
4 oz cleaned wild mushrooms (such as hedgehog and bluefoot), sliced
1 oz butter
1 tsp cognac
1 oz heavy cream
12 large perch fillets, cleaned (about 8 oz)
perch fritters
perch roe croutons
0.12 oz parsley, chopped
0.12 oz dill, chopped

  • Place the fish stock, carrots, leeks, and scallions in a saucepan. Season with salt, and simmer for 45 minutes.
  • In a pan over medium heat, sauté the mushrooms in the butter until soft, then add to the soup. Mix in the cognac and heavy cream.
  • Season the perch fillets with salt. Roll each fillet onto itself, and secure each with a toothpick. Poach the fish in the soup on low heat for a few minutes, until barely cooked.
  • Ladle the soup into four bowls. Add three perch fritters and one perch roe crouton to each plate. Sprinkle with parsley and dill, and serve immediately.
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