The Ojibwe feasted on whitefish stews and whitefish powder tossed with wild blueberries. Whitefish fed the fur traders, sustained the settlers and still today supports 5th-generation fishing families like the Bortells of Ludington and the Petersons of Fairport. In the last 300 years, whitefish moved far beyond staple to enter cult status. We love the fresh, mild fillets pulled from freshwater depths—baked on a plank, fried and tucked in a roll, suspended in cream cheese on a cracker. They say Great Lakes whitefish contains more omega-3 fatty acids than pink and sockeye salmon. Nice food for thought, but we’d eat it anyway. Here, a few of our favorite ways:
Almond Crusted Whitefish with Frangelico Butter Sauce and Cherry Puree Old Mission Tavern, 17015 Center Rd., Traverse City, 231-223-7280.
Bluebird Style Lake Michigan whitefish dusted with seasoned flour and lightly fried to crispy perfection. The Bluebird, 102 River St., Leland, 231-256-9081.
Great Lakes Fish and Chips Irresistible crunchy and flaky battered fish. multiple locations.
Hazelnut and Mustard Seed Crusted Whitefish Pan sautéed and served with spiced rum butter sauce over cherry couscous. Grey Gables Inn, Charlevoix, 308 Belvedere, Charlevoix, 231-547-9261.
Planked Whitefish A giant fillet, baked and served on a maple plank bordered with piped duchess potatoes, sautéed vegetables and a broiled Parmesan tomato. The Village Inn, Hoban St., Mackinac Island, 906-847-3542.
Whitefish Grenobois Pan sautéed in a heavenly lemon butter sauce with capers. Creamy slaw and Terry’s stewed tomatoes on the side. Terry’s Place, 101 Antrim St., Charlevoix, 231-547-2799.
Whitefish en Papiot Tear into this half-heart of parchment paper to find a fillet baked with French brie cheese, dill, lemon, fish stock and a little Chateau Grand Traverse Chardonnay. Betsie Bay Inn, 231 Main Street, Frankfort, 231-352-8090.
Whitefish Pâté Good chance if you were on a boat anywhere on Torch Lake on Fourth of July weekend, you were eating Karen Watters’s secret blend of cream cheese, horseradish, lemon juice and sugar maple–smoked whitefish. Bellaire Smokehouse, 508 N. Bridge St., Bellaire, 231-533-5069.
Whitefish Sausage June Cross puts it in split pea soup. Cross Fisheries, 209 Belvedere Ave., Charlevoix, 231-547-2532. —E.B.T.