If you read my post about our time on Lake Como last fall, you probably picked up on my extreme love for this signature dish: battered perch fish in a butter sage sauce, served with lemon cream risotto. We proceeded to try the dish at nearly every restaurant we visited. Naturally, each place has a slightly different version, but if you ever find yourself in Bellagio, I highly recommend Barchetta.
I promised right then and there that I would attempt to recreate this myself, and while Barchetta’s version is still the best, I’m pretty happy with how mine turned out. It may not be a meal we eat every week, but it will certainly hold a spot on special occasions. Until the day comes when we can afford to purchase our Bellagio vacation home, this version will have to do.
Since I’m in Northern California (without an abundance of European lake perch available) I used rockfish that I purchased at Whole Foods and it yielded the same results. Once you have the recipe, it’s pretty easy to prepare so give it a go and envision yourself lake-side in Italy.
Battered Perch Fish with Butter & Sage
For the fish:
- 1-1/2 cup flour, divided
- 2/3 cup lemon juice, divided
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2/3 cup water
- 2 pounds rockfish fillet, cut into strips
- 8 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
- 10-15 fresh sage leaves
Place 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup lemon juice into separate shallow bowls and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 cup flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the egg, water, and remaining 1/3 cup lemon juice, whisking to combine.
In a large cast iron skillet, heat half of the ghee over medium-high heat. Once hot, dip half of the fillet strips into the lemon juice, then flour, then batter. Carefully add the battered fish to the pan and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Transfer the fried fish to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of ghee and repeat the process with the rest of the fish.
Add sage to pan and allow to fry until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Serve fish with crumbled sage leaves on top.
Refine Cooking Tips
- The batter should be very runny, similar to the consistency of crepe batter. Add more water, if needed.
- When fully heated, your oil should be about 375°F.
Lemon Cream Risotto
- 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup light white wine
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- Juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Salt & pepper, to taste
In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter and the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes until soft but not browned. Stir in the rice for 1-2 minutes, until the grains look glossy.
- Is important to stir pretty nonstop while making risotto, and continually scrape down the sides of the pot to catch any stray grains.
- If your mixture is sticking on the bottom faster than you can stir, turn down the heat.
- You may ultimately need a little more or less stock than the recipe indicates. Continue adding it slowly and stirring until the rice is cooked and the risotto has a creamy consistency.