Nicholas Heidemann is a chef, caterer and lifelong angler who grew up at a fishing resort in Ontario. He fished and cooked his way around the world as a yacht chef and fishing expedition cook.
Heidemann lives on the shores of Clear Lake, and he caters for both winery and fishing events. While most fishermen use motorboats and spinning gear to catch largemouth bass here, he prefers to sail and use a fly rod.
“They’re just such rough and tough fighting fish, and they’re so much fun to catch,” he says. “I’ve been eating freshwater fish all my life—pike, pickerel, bass and all that. Some people look down on them and say, ‘No, don’t eat that stuff,’ but that’s just [baloney].”
Heidemann says that freshwater bass needs to be cooked right to taste its best. His recipe uses a marinade, lots of herbs, pecans and wood smoke to counter the oiliness and what some call the “muddy” scent of the uncooked fish.
- 4 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 largemouth bass fillets, about 6 ounces each (may substitute branzino)
- ½ cup finely chopped pecans
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh minced tarragon
- 2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
- 1 tablespoon minced Meyer lemon zest (or ½ tablespoon each of orange and lemon zest)
Combine vinegar, mustard, horseradish, mayonnaise and olive oil in large bowl. Add fish. Coat well, and let marinate 1 hour. Meanwhile, combine pecans, garlic, herbs and zest in large, shallow baking dish. Shake excess marinade from fish. Dredge fillets in pecan mixture, packing the nuts onto the fish to coat evenly.
Heat grill to 500˚F. Add piece of oak or smoke chips. Once wood is smoking, place oiled wire rack with fine mesh (or oiled cast-iron skillet or griddle) on grill. Add fish in single layer. Close grill lid and cook about 3 minutes. Then turn the grill off and let finish 7 minutes, or until fish tightens and opens up a little (if using charcoal, move to the coolest part of the grill). Using thin-slotted spatula, carefully remove filets. Garnish with lemon wedges and herb sprigs. Serves 4.
The spicy marinade and all those herbs in the rub invite a classic, crisp Sauvignon Blanc to meet them head on. Husch’s 2014 La Ribera Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, from Mendocino, has great balance and fresh, invigorating citrus and pine flavors that are made for this kind of matchup. It tastes refreshing and clean, but also concentrated enough to quiet the sheer volume of flavor in this powerful bass preparation.