Fried Pickerel with Essence of Basil and Balsamic

When cleaned and deboned properly, pickerel makes for a delicious dinner


  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 4 (6-ounce) pickerel fillets
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
  • ½ teaspoons pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt


In small saucepan, bring balsamic vinegar and sugar to boil, stirring. Reduce heat and simmer until syrupy, about 10 minutes. Scrape into small bowl and set aside to let cool. (Make-ahead: Cover and store in cool place for up to 2 weeks.)

Meanwhile, heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat to 375 degrees. Set aside half of the basil leaves; cook remaining basil in 2 batches until crisp, 5 to 6 seconds. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate; set aside. Let oil cool.

Strain oil, reserving 2 tablespoons to cook pickerel. Pour remaining oil into food processor; add remaining basil and pulse until finely chopped. Strain oil through fine sieve; pour into small plastic squeeze bottle. (Make-ahead: refrigerate for up to 1 week.)

In pie plate, whisk together flour, lemon rind, salt and pepper. With paper towel, pat fillets dry; dredge in flour mixture to coat well on both sides, shaking off excess. Set aside in single layer on waxed paper-lined baking sheet.

Place nonstick skillet over medium heat; brush with reserved basil oil. Cook pickerel, in batches and brushing with more oil as necessary, until golden and flakes easily when tested with fork, 3 to 5 minutes per side.

Divide fish among 4 warmed plates. Top each with pile of fried basil leaves. Drizzle basil oil around fillet. Using fork, dot oil with balsamic syrup.

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