Coconut Encrusted Walleye with Honey Vinaigrette Dipping Sauce
Looking to try something new and different with your hard earned protein? Encrusting a fillet of meat in coconut adds a sweet, nutty richness, and some crisp. It works very well with delicate meats such as walleye and ruffed grouse breast. The flavor of the coconut crust will subtly compliment the sweetness of the wild fare. A vinaigrette style sauce works well, adding a bit of acidity and another layer of sweet, but many types of sauces work well.
The keys to pulling off a proper golden brown coconut crust is a relatively low cooking temperature, and fairly thin cuts of meat. Shredded coconut holds a fair amount of sugar which will brown (and burn) very quickly, so the key is to make sure the meat cooks through fully as both sides become golden brown. Thinner cuts of meat will simply cook through faster, so do not use fillets over 3/4 of an inch or so, and lightly pound down a grouse breast with the back of a skillet to make it more uniformly thin. Also, do not coat the meat with coconut too densely or it will create a solid skin when cooked that will slide ride off when cut.
Firstly, season both sides of the meat well before doing anything. Salt and pepper, and/or seasoned salt work just fine. Preheat a skillet on low/medium heat and add a spoonful of coconut oil (any oil will work, but coconut oil is best in flavor for this dish!). Blend up an egg with a dash of milk until the stringiness of the egg is gone, as the egg wash won't coat the surface well if the egg is not thoroughly blended. Dredge the fillets in plain flour first until it is lightly coated, then pull the flour coated fillets through the egg wash until covered (the flour and egg wash dredging creates a sort of cooking glue that will hold on the coconut). Drop the fillets onto the shredded coconut and sprinkle shredded coconut on the top side until covered. Grab the end of the fillet, lift, and shake to drop all excess coconut off the fillet. Drop the fillet into the preheated skillet - there should only be a light sizzling when the fish hits the pan, adjust the heat appropriately if no sizzling occurs or if the pan is too hot.
Keep an eye on the fillets so they do not burn, and flip once they're golden brown. Continue cooking the other side of the fillet until golden brown and the meat becomes flaky. Be sure to have a large spatula that can get under most of the fillet as they are very delicate and will break apart easily.
A vinaigrette sounds like a tricky sauce, but at its core it is pretty basic. For the base I usually start with equal parts apple cider vinegar, olive oil, honey, and mustard (dijon is a good choice), and you can adjust those some if you prefer less/more sweetness or acidity. Use vinegar or mayonnaise to thin or thicken the sauce to your preferences; I usually add a bit of mayonnaise for a touch thicker sauce, and it mellows out the flavors while adding some creaminess and body. To mix it up add some lime, herbs, horseradish, or hot sauce; the honey vinaigrette in this recipe is pretty flexible and can be changed in many ways.