16.04.2020 – Food & Drinks | Food column

Perfect pike, fresh from the waters of Lake Zurich

Column: Hans Georg ‘HG’ Hildebrandt Photos: William Schäppi

Fish from Lake Zurich normally goes straight to local restaurants. But at the moment you can go straight to the fisherman and buy incredibly fresh fish at a reasonable price. Why not try some delicious pike? Our food writer Hans Georg ‘HG’ Hildebrandt shares his favourite pike recipe.

Zurich native Adrian Gerny makes his living by catching fish. He normally supplies fish to Fischers Fritz, a restaurant owned by Michel Péclard next to the campsite in Wollishofen. Adrian has been earning a living as a fisherman since 2008, and on average he lands about 50kg of fish a day. He has rented a room on the campsite, where he normally guts his catch and prepares the fish for Péclard’s kitchen crew.

But the restaurant trade is currently on ice and will remain so for some time. When I read Michel Péclard’s Facebook post encouraging people to stock up on Adrian’s fresh fish from Lake Zurich, I immediately picked up the phone and ordered half a pike, filleted, along with the head and liver, as pike is currently in season.

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This feisty fish (Esox Lucius) lurks in the green waters of Lake Zurich, where it ambushes its prey before making a lightning strike and carrying it off to be consumed. A pike is even capable of chasing down a duckling! The fact that it’s a bit of a brute might just salve your conscience when you’re standing outside Adrian Gerny’s cold store at 10 in the morning. He hands me a filleted fish that he caught at the crack of dawn, with the head and liver wrapped separately. Of all the freshwater fish, I think pike has the best flavour and texture. The downside is that pike is like a pincushion – full of tiny bones.

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Pike meat has a wonderful texture.

Perhaps you’re wondering why I bought the pike’s head from Adrian Gerny? It’s rich in gelatine so you can boil it down for stock. Simply place the head in a pan with plenty of water, a sliced onion, a bay leaf, a clove and three tarragon leaves. Simmer for 2 hours (do not allow to boil), then strain, reduce again by about a quarter, and finally add salt. Before making the stock, pick the meat out of the head and add it to a little boned pike flesh to make Rillettes de Brochet, a kind of terrine that will preserve the meat for about a week thanks to the gelatine contained in the head. It’s delicious on toast. You can also use the pike stock as a base for freshwater fish bouillabaisse – Adrian Gerny also sells boned bream and burbot. For bouillabaisse, I would also simmer a couple of crayfish in the pike stock; you can buy them at Frischeparadies near the Letzigrund. I’m a bit of a purist, so I wouldn’t cook saltwater fish in pike stock.

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I tried coating the pike fillets in beer batter and frying them in hot oil, but unfortunately I made the batter too thin and it wouldn’t cling to the flesh of the pike. This was partly because I don’t own a deep fryer and hate having the smell of frying oil in my open-plan kitchen. But the fillets were still delicious.

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This is not a recipe for beginners.

And now for the liver of Esox Lucius. It’s quite big and has a very fine texture. Of course, you should eat it while it’s as fresh as possible. Avoid leaving it in the vacuum bag for any length of time because it’s very delicate and the pressure of the bag makes it lose its juices. Unlike the liver of certain whitefish (Coregonus), pike liver should not be eaten raw because it may be infested with pike tapeworm. I checked out a few recipes for pike liver as I was thinking about cooking it on my Japanese tabletop grill, but I changed my mind after chatting to people in my foodie groups on social media. Apparently barbecuing the liver wouldn’t do anything for the flavour. The recipe below might seem to be for expert cooks only, but I urge you to give it a go – it will take your cooking to the next level.

Ingredients
1 pike liver (approx. 100g)
1 Greenstar apple
10 tarragon leaves
1 tbsp flour Butter (organic)
2 cl Absinthe Larusée 57%
½ tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lime juice
Maldon salt

Method 
Slice the apple thinly. Fry in a little butter with a dash of lemon juice to stop the apple turning brown. Cook for around 2 minutes over a medium-high heat, then deglaze with lime juice. Arrange the apple slices on two warm plates.

Lay the liver out flat and cut into 2-centimetre cubes. In a non-stick pan, cook the butter until it foams. Meanwhile, dust the liver with flour. Tip the liver all at once into the hot butter and sauté for about two minutes. Deglaze with the absinthe. Test a piece to see if it is cooked through – if not, cook for another minute. Keep shaking the pan vigorously. Just before serving, add the tarragon leaves and let them wilt slightly. Arrange on the apple slices. Sprinkle with Maldon salt and a little crushed white pepper.

Adress

Fischerei Adrian Gerny GmbH
Seestrasse 559
8038 Zurich
+41 79 472 76 09 
Website