Farm Girl Walleye Cakes
Updated: Nov 30, 2018
By now it’s no secret that I was raised a farm-girl. A central Minnesota 80 acre hobby farm was home for 20 years. Hobby farm? Meaning, mother and dad had “real” jobs and farming was their hobby. In reality, it was full time work, too. For all of us. We lived “permaculture”, before permaculture was a trendy topic. And, “organic” wasn’t distinguishable from mindful family farming and gardening.
Our livestock inventory at any given point, while not necessarily impressive, included 12-28 head of pastured Black Angus cattle, 50-100 free-range, busty Sil-Go-Link chickens, a horse for my sister, a couple dogs, and requisite cats to help mind the mouse population around the granary and haymow. We traded for pork.
We planted field corn, alfalfa, and oats for the livestock, baled our own hay, and harvested our own grains; all with meticulously maintained, iconic- green, John Deere machinery. Dad was particular about the quality of his machinery and his businessman career afforded the indulgence.
We also had a massive vegetable garden, and row upon row of cultivated raspberry bushes. When farm and garden work was done, fishing and hunting pursuits occupied our time as we laid up stores of wild game for the winter.
I was taught how to shine and pluck night-crawlers from the heavy, clay-rich soil in our yard; best done on rainy June evenings after the thunderstorm had passed. And how to hook live squirming leech bait onto homemade spinners with a number 4 Aberdeen hook by letting it suck my thumbnail. We often dropped our baited lines as a family into one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes.
Mother and dad were excellent fishermen. Dad passed a year ago, but my mother, Donna, (now in her 80s), still enjoys getting out on the water and wetting her line in my brother’s Lund, or when canoeing with my sister and me in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
When they fished together, mom usually had the best luck and the most sensitive hand. Not that my Dad wasn’t accomplished, but mom has exceptionally fine motor skills. Her lifelong passion with needle and thread, and her exacting nature as seamstress and quilter seem to have heightened her ability to detect subtlety at the end of a sharp pointy object. So, in addition to an abundance of fresh homegrown produce, beef, poultry, canned goods, jams, jellies, fruit sauces, root veggies, and wild game, we also had a generous amount of fresh water fish like crappies, sunny’s, and walleyes in the freezer.
At the time I considered farm living far from bucolic. I lamented the chores, the manual labor, and the relative isolation that characterized rural living. Since, I have come to value the freedoms it afforded, the quality of life delivered, the lessons learned, and work ethic engrained. In reality, it was a country life of arcadian contentment. Working not for self, but together for the welfare, viability, and pleasure of the family.
Though I use walleye in this family favorite, crappie, or pike are equally suitable. Ideally, we are looking for firm, but tender, flaky, white-fleshed fish.
1 pound poached walleye
1 T fresh chopped herbs
¼ cup mayo
2-4 T Panko Japanese Bread Flakes
¾ t seafood seasoning
1 egg beaten
Dijon mustard to taste (brightens the flavors)
¼ C Flour
Oil for frying
Mix together thinly sliced scallion, herbs, mayo, seafood seasoning, and mustard. Gently fold in poached walleye taking care not to break large flakes and nuggets. Add 2 T Panko bread flakes. Fold in beaten egg. If the meat doesn’t seem to be binding, add more bread crumbs a tablespoon at a time until it does. (Amount of bread crumbs depend on juiciness of meat.)
Form into desired size cakes. Put on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 24. This ensures that the cakes will hold together during frying.
When ready to fry, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmery. Lightly dredge cakes in flour and gently lay in pan in batches. Cook until exterior is crispy and browned. Serve immediately as is, or with choice of sauce(s) and wedges of lemon.