Posted: December 19th, 2012 by Bill Dance
There are few game fish that provide as good table fare as the crappie. Crappie meat is flaky white and flavorful. But special care should be taken with these fish to ensure freshness and quality.
Crappie should be kept cold after being caught so the meat will be firm and retain all its flavor. In winter and spring months, the fish can be kept alive in a livewell or cooler filled with lake water. But warmer months demand that crappie be kept in an ice-filled cooler immediately after being removed from the hook.
It is important to clean crappie as soon as possible upon returning to shore. Whole crappie or fillets may be frozen in water-filled containers, but make sure all the meat is completely covered by water.
Another freezing method allows the cook to thaw any desired number of fillets without thawing the entire package. Cover a cookie sheet with wax paper and arrange fillets in rows to cover the sheet. Add another layer of wax paper, place more fillets in a second layer and continue to build layers (separated by wax paper) until you are out of fish. Cover the top layer with wax paper and place the fillets in the freezer overnight.
The next morning remove the paper and dip the now-frozen fillets one-by-one into a pan of cold water. The water adheres to the frozen fish and will form a thin ice coating around the flesh. Place the fillets in a plastic bag, seal and return them to the freezer. The fillets won’t stick together. They will be individually sealed in ice, which will retain their flavor. When you’re ready to prepare them, simply open the bag and take out the desired number of fillets for thawing.
If crappie are kept in this manner for more than six months, wrap the plastic bag in freezer paper to seal in the flavor.
Speaking of crappie, here is a crappie recipe my family has enjoyed for decades. I call it “Crappie Salad.”
2-4 8-ounce fillets
Cook fillets in a microwave oven for 2 1/2 minutes at a high setting. Determine if fish is cooked by plac-ing a fork into the meat. The fillets should flake. Sprinkle fillets with McCormick buttered salt and pepper.
Once cooled, place the fillets in a 2-quart mixing bowl and add mayonnaise, diced celery, dill pickles, onions and mix.
Serve with lettuce leaves in a dinner salad, as an appetizer or use for sandwiches.
As always, catch one for me,
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