Risotto with Sweet Peas and Lake Erie Perch Fillets

The sustainably-fished Lake Erie yellow perch has a firm, mildly sweet flesh, as well as a tasty thin skin that lends itself nicely to crisping up in a hot pan. Both those virtues combine most harmoniously with creamy risotto and spring peas. Any fish of similar qualities will work as a stand-in. We hope you enjoy creating this delicious meal, perfectly paired with a wine selected by winemaker, Jamie Marfell. Serves 4 as an Appetizer/Entrée

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 batch risotto – recipe below
  • 8 Lake Erie yellow perch fillets, about 2 oz (60 g) each
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) salt
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter
Risotto
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) olive oil
  • 1 cup (250 mL) minced onion
  • Salt
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) minced garlic
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 mL) Carnaroli rice
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) white wine
  • 1 quart (1 L) white chicken stock, at a simmer
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) sweet peas, blanched
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) 35% cream
RECIPE METHOD:
  1. Heat 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onions, salt lightly, and sweat, stirring frequently so the onions do not brown. When after 5 or 6 minutes the onions begin to wilt, add the garlic and cook a minute longer. Add the rice and stir well to coat with the oil. Add more oil if necessary. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the grams of rice begin to acquire translucence (if uncertain, lift a few grains from the pot and examine them against the dark backdrop of your wooden spoon). When that is achieved, deglaze with the wine.
  2. When the wine has been reduced to virtual syrup, add ½ cup (125 mL) of the hot stock. Stir again. When the liquid once again thickens, add ¼ cup (50 mL) stock and stir again. Season lightly. Stir regularly, and build the seasoning gradually as you go. Continue until the rice is nearly cooked and the stock nearly finished.
  3. When the risotto is nearly done, pat the perch fillets dry with paper towels. Rub them lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Heat a large non-stick skillet on medium-high and add the vegetable oil and butter. When the butter has stopped foaming, add the fillets skin side down and immediately place a slightly smaller skillet over them to prevent curling. After about 2 minutes, remove the top skillet, flip the fish, and cook (uncovered) until done, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the fish to a warm plate.
  4. Stir the peas and cheese into the risotto. Heat through. Remove pot from heat. Stir in the cream, and butter. Taste and correct seasonings with salt and white pepper.
  5. Finish the risotto. Plate individually or on a serving platter, topping the risotto with perch fillets arranged skin side up. Garnish with sprigs of chervil or minced chives.

Substitutions: Pickerel fillets cut into small portions work just as nicely in this dish as the perch. Red mullet is another superbly and prettily-coloured alternative.