Northern pike
Northern pike
This streamlined monster with its mouthful of sharp teeth and menacing head can weigh up to 18 kg. It's a very long fish with dark green skin dappled with lighter markings. Did you know that it's our freshwater version of the barracuda?

General Information
The northern pike, highly prized by anglers, is a circumpolar species found in lakes, ponds and slow streams in most of the hemisphere. It is sometimes also known as jackfish, northern pickerel or great northern pickerel, but is not to be confused with walleye (also sometimes called pickerel) which is actually related to the perch! Northern pike can attain a weight of 18 kg, but commercial catches usually weigh 1 to 2 kg on average.

Northern pike is a very long fish, darkish green in colour and speckled with lighter marks. Its mouth is armed with sharp, pointy teeth. A cross section of the body (from the front part of the fish) forms an oval that is slightly flattened on the ventral side. They are caught using gill nets, crawls and seine nets.

fresh water

Middle English, from Old English pic (point), referring to the shape of its jaw.

Esocidae family

A lean fish with firm white flaky flesh. This fish keeps very well and can be cut into fillets and prepared like any lean fish.

Culinary File
Northern pike is known for its voraciousness. Be careful… you will be too after one bite!

Commercial uses
fresh and frozen fish, blocks of chopped fish, individually frozen fillets, tray pack fillets or steaks, blocks of fillets, whole fish with head removed.

Nutritional values per 100 g
Calories: 84; carbohydrates: 0 g; fat: 0.5 g; protein: 19 g.
Rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and B vitamins.

Young pike has fewer bones.

Clean the pike; scale it.

Northern pike is a fish that has generated some culinary debate over the years, both regarding its flavor and preparation. Some people will tell you that you absolutely must remove the skin of the pike before cooking it; however the skin's slightly oily, silty taste gives the fish its unique flavor, due to the abundance of pigments and mucous found under the skin. Personally I like a nice pike head peeking up at me from my soup, but I admit that its pronounced flavour is not to everybody's liking. So let's compromise: if you're cooking it in the oven, keep the skin on; if you're cooking it in water or court-bouillon, remove the skin.

If you wish to get rid of the silty taste, you need to bleed the freshly-caught fish. The incision should be made at throat level, below the cheeks.

A lean fish with firm white flaky flesh. Pike keeps very well and can be cut into fillets and prepared like any lean fish. Young pike is best pan-fried and served in foamy butter.

When the pike reaches its adult size, cooking in court-bouillon (for about 25 minutes) is definitely the best cooking method.

Oven cooking can be tricky: undercooked, it is acidic; overcooked, it becomes pasty! For this cooking method, it's best to leave the skin on so that the flesh stays moist.

The skin really only imparts its flavor to the flesh when it's boiled. Gut and clean the pike; place the fish on a bed of sliced onions to keep it from sticking to the roasting pan; cook in a 225° C (450° F) oven for 4 to 5 minutes per kilogram. Serve with lemon butter.

About bones
It is very difficult to fillet a large northern pike well because, unlike most species, it possesses a second row of "Y- bones" along the back. That is why people prefer to use pike for soup or quenelles. A good way to remove the bones is to take them out with a pair of needle-nosed pliers when the fish is almost cooked, since at that point the bones will be protruding from the fillet.

Shredding or flaking pike fillets has to be done patiently and meticulously by hand, since under every "flake" there is a thin bone.

Pike quenelles are a French culinary classic and are a way to get around the problem of the fish's numerous bones. Bring 250 ml (1 cup) milk and 80 g (1/3 cup) butter to a boil; season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add 125 g (4 oz., about 1 1/4 cup) flour and whisk together. When the mixture begins to thicken, reduce the heat and mix with a wooden spoon until the "panade" comes away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat and beat in 2 or 3 eggs. Mix well and let cool. Put 250 g (9 oz.) boned pike through a food mill. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and combine with 250 g (9 oz.) of the cold panade, mixing well. Blend in 2 eggs to make a smooth mixture (for a lighter result you can separate the eggs, and beat the whites). Add 2 to 3 tbsp. crème fraîche or whipping cream. Keep cold. Just before serving, mold the quenelles one at a time with damp palms or two spoons; drop them into simmering salted water. Be sure to use a large amount of water to prevent them from sticking together. Once they rise to the surface, remove them with a skimmer or slotted spoon. Serve in court-bouillon, a cream sauce with crayfish butter, etc.



In collaboration with Oceans and Fisheries Canada and Michel La Haye, M.Sc.env.

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