I have grown to adore all the bits and pieces of fish not commonly consumed on the North American table, but there's something special about Walleye Collar.
Fish collars aren't anything new or unique by any means; we see west coast dwellers pull them from salmon for preparation on the grill or in the smoker all the time. However, the collar exists on all fish and is often overlooked on even the most commonly consumed species.
The collar is one of the most enjoyable and delicious cuts to interact with. Think of chicken wings; they're like unpacking a tasty little gift with an interactive challenge integrated into the experience, and collars are no different.
The collar is cut from along the fish clavicle and consists of meat from the top of the head and along the backside of the gills. It stops at the belly, just between the pectoral fins. You'd usually see this piece left behind as a part of the head, but I promise you this is a good chunk of what may soon be your favourite piece of meat.
The best way to prepare them is on the grill, over a wood flame, so here's a little recipe to get you set on the right path to taking home the collar every time. You'll enjoy them just as much if you hit them with a little salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon, but I encourage you to try this delicious preparation.
Grilled Miso Walleye Collar
4-10 walleye collars (depending on size)
¼ cup of white miso paste
3 Tablespoons Sake (white wine will also work)
1 Tablespoon of white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon chili oil
2 Tablespoons of a crispy chili condiment (if you don't have access to this, feel free to use a garlic-chili paste or add some dry chili flakes)
Short grain rice
Whisk the above ingredients together to make a marinade and pour over the fish collars. Ensure they are covered well and place them in the fridge overnight.
Once marinated, remove them from the dish and use a paper towel to wipe off as much of the miso marinade as possible. At the same time, start a pot of sticky rice on the stove.
Miso is salty and can char easily, so remove as much as you can.
Before you grill, hit both sides of the collars with some fresh ground pepper.
Grill over medium heat, skin side down first. You'll notice that any remaining miso will char, but that's okay; it adds great flavour.
Keep a close eye on the grill, as the collars will cook quickly. Flip after a few minutes of direct heat and grill the other side until cooked through.
Stack the collars on top of some rice, drizzle with chilli oil, and dust with thin slices of green onion.
Enjoy while it's hot.
Words & photos by Josh McFaddin