There are very few fish that I enjoy catching as much as the Northern Pike. With every cast you never know what you rare going to get. You might get a strike as soon as the lure hits the water or you might get it right next to the boat. They attack with such speed and ferocity that you are never really ready for it. When I was kid at my Grandparents cabin on Leech Lake my grandmother would tell me to go down on the dock and practise my casting. I would take my old Diawa rod and reel and tie on an old school Red Devil spoon and cast it over and over off the dock. More of ten that not I would catch a Pike and then the fight was on.
Here in Minnesota Walleye's are the king and it seems that people have forgotten how great catching Northerns can be. A lot of walleye fisherman will catch Pike while fishing walleyes and then throw them back. They claim that they are to bony or to fishy, or to slimy. Yes it is true that Northerns have an odd set of Y bones that make them more difficult to clean. But other than that they are just as good table fare as any other fish I have ever caught.
The Y bones aren't a lot of fun to work around but there are a number of fillet techniques that help get rid of them. The five fillet method is one that I use regularly and it is pretty easy to learn and master. You can also prepare pike in many different ways that help eliminate the bones. Pickling pike is a great method of softening the bones so that you won't even know they are there. The French make Quenelles with is a dumpling of sorts where the grind the fish and press it through a tamis to help sift out the bones then mix the ground meat with a paste to make the quenelle. The large dumplings are then poached in salted water, drained and then baked in a cream sauce with Parmesan cheese. I have been wanting to make these quenelles for a long time but frankly I was intimidated by them and never tried. I really had nothing to be intimidated by French Pike Quenelles were not nearly as difficult as I had imagined they would be and after biting into the first quenelle I realized it would have been worth it even if it was as difficult as I had imagined.
This recipe is from Master the Art of French Cooking By Julia Child, it the book she states that even if you mess this up you can still use the batter by pouring it into souflee molds and making them to make Fish Mouse. A good Stand Mixer with a pastry attachment is needed.
Quenelle De Lyon
1 cup of water
1 tsp salt
4 tablespoons of butter
1 cup sifted flour
2 whole eggs plus two egg whites
1 1/4 pound ground northern pike
a generous pinch of nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
4 tablespoons of heavy cream
Bring the water, slat and butter to a boil and then add the flour. Stirring quickly until the flour absorbs all the water and butter and you end up with a ball of dough. Transfer the dough to a stand mixer with the pastry attachment and turn on to medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time and the egg whites. Add the fish, nutmeg, salt and pepper and continue to mix until well combined. place the bowl and the mixture in the fridge to cool for about an hour. Place the bowl back on the mixer and then slowly add the heavy cream an ounce at a time to combine. When the cream is completely absorrbed into the paste you are ready to make the quenelle.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer being careful to not let it boil. using two large dessert spoons form the quenelle and drop the into the water. Quenelle is the shape and is used to describe the technique of making the shape out anything. the link shows how to make quenelle with ice cream but you will be using the fish paste. Once the quenelle are formed let them sit in the simmering water for for fifteen minutes then remove them and transfer them to a baking dish.
For the sauce
1 quart crayfish stock (or other fish stock, chicken stock would work as well)
1 cup heavy cream
Place the stock in a sauce pan and reduce it down to about 1 cup then add the cream and bring to a light boil until it starts to thicken. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the quenelle in the baking dish and top with parmesan cheese. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and a light brown crust has formed on top.