How to Cook Panfish Risotto

Thanks to some sweet corn and fresh tomatoes, this pond-to-table supper captures summer’s best flavors

panfish risotto sweet corn tomatoes recipe
A mixed stringer of panfish and small bass should be enough to cook this recipe.Christina Holmes / Roscoe Bestill (Food and Prop Styling)

This is the perfect recipe for when the summertime fishing yields a mixed stringer, maybe some panfish and a small bass. Sure, you could freeze them, but you could also fold their fresh-​caught flavor into this ­risotto: a medley of Arborio rice, ­tomatoes, and sweet corn. Save the heads and bones when you clean the fish; it’s optional, but simmering them in the corn stock adds a deeper level of flavor. Like all ­risottos, this one requires some stirring time at the stove, but arming yourself with a cold beer and some good tunes makes this an exercise in pleasure.

Ingredients | Serves 4

  • 1 lb. fillets from clean, white fish (panfish, bass, walleye), heads and bones reserved (optional)
  • 2 ears fresh corn
  • 1 leek, white part finely chopped and dark-green part reserved
  • 1 celery rib
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 6 whole black peppercorns
  • About 12 oz. ripe tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1⁄2 cup dry white wine
  • 1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1⁄4 cup buttermilk
  • 1⁄4 cup finely chopped basil or chives
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Cut the kernels from the corn and reserve, saving the cobs. Separate and wash the dark-green part of the leek, then add to a medium pot with the corn cobs, celery, garlic, peppercorns, about a teaspoon of salt, and about 6 cups of cold water. Add the fish heads and bones, if using, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover, and let simmer for 25 minutes. Strain the stock, discarding the solids, and return to the stove over low heat.
  2. Grate the tomatoes on the large side of a box grater, discarding the skins. Dice the fish fillets into 1⁄2-inch pieces, and salt and pepper generously; keep the fish refrigerated until ready to use.
  3. Place another medium pot over medium-low heat and add half the butter. Add the white part of the leek and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the rice and continue to stir for about 3 minutes, or until the grains are shiny and turning translucent. Add the wine and stir until absorbed. Add the tomatoes and their juice, and continue to stir until the liquid has been absorbed.
  1. Stir in two ladles of the warm corn stock and continue as before: stirring until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Set a timer for 15 minutes, ladling when needed and stirring all the while. After 15 minutes, add the corn kernels. Salt and pepper generously. Continue to add two ladles of stock when needed and to stir for another 15 minutes, or until the rice is plump and tender, and the mixture resembles creamed corn.
  2. Next, add the fish to the ­risotto with enough stock to make the mixture slightly soupy (if you run out of stock, use water), and continue to stir gently for another 5 minutes, or until the fish is fully cooked.
  3. Turn off the heat, then gently stir in the cheese and the buttermilk. Let stand for a few minutes, covered, then ladle into bowls, sprinkle with the herbs, and serve.