You’ve tried Door County whitefish, devoured plates of deep-fried perch on a Friday night, and been awed by the spectacle of the fish boil, but have you ever had the pleasure of eating a Door County lawyer?
Don’t worry, it’s not what you think. Lawyer is a peculiar—and under-appreciated—cold water fish enjoyed by many on the Door peninsula and especially on Washington Island. Known as the poor man’s lobster because it’s meat tastes similar when well cooked, the lawyer is known scientifically as burbot, but is also called a mud shark, lush, ling, or eelpout.
The lawyer name, according to fishermen, is owed to the location of the fish’s heart, which is found very close to its rear end.
Ken Koyen, owner of a Washington Island bar, is credited with popularizing the lawyer in these parts. Koyen has fished the great lakes for 45 years, and like many fishermen he ignored the lawyer as a bottom-feeder until some fishermen buddies encouraged him to fry some up.
Soon after he was doing the same for his customers, and locals have been enjoying it in almost every preparation for more than three decades. Baked, boiled, broiled, pan-fried or deep-fried, the lawyer has earned its place at the table.
Give this under-rated fish a chance and you’ll never look at lawyers the same!
Recipe: Tempura-Battered Lawyer
1 TSP Salt
1 TSP Pepper
1.5 Cups Flour
1 TBSP Cornstarch
¾ Cups seltzer or club soda
3 Cups Vegetable Oil
1 lb lawyer (fresh, not frozen!)
Combine flour, cornstarch, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, mixing in seltzer water a little at a time until mixture is thick enough to stick to a spoon. Coat each chunk of lawyer in the batter and set aside.
Pour about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil into a large frying pan and heat until super hot. Add breaded chunks of lawyer to the frying pan, frying until each side is lightly browned, then flip. Remove fish and serve with drawn butter or tartar sauce.
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