Old-time Mainers naturally equate white perch with fish chowder. While a chowder made from freshwater fish may seem a contradiction in terms, perch make the best chowder going.
Skin and gut at least 12 white perch. Remove the heads and rinse clean. Steam the perch in a small amount of water, just until the flesh turns white.
Remove the fish and allow to cool.
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Pick the meat from the bones and place back in the water. In a separate frying pan, render 6 or 8 small bits of salt pork. Add the salt pork (or omit, if you are cholesterol-conscious). Boil 2 potatoes and 1 medium onion for 5 minutes, making sure they are not completely cooked. Dice the potatoes and onion and add to the liquid in which the fish was cooked. Add 1 quart of milk and a pat of butter.
Salt has been provided by the salt pork, but freshly ground pepper can be added. Simmer the chowder until the potatoes are completely cooked. Be careful not to let the mixture boil. Just before serving, drop a few springs of parsley in the chowder and serve piping hot.
You can vary this recipe to your tastes. After all, a chowder is an ever-changing entity and great chowders are often composed on the spur of the moment. The most important factor in a good chowder is the white perch.
You can also have a more fat- and cholesterol-free perch meal that will have guests begging for more. Skin and fillet all the white perch you care to deal with. Wash the fillets carefully to remove any loose scales. Roll in flour, corn meal, or a combination of the two and fry in safflower oil until golden brown. Drain cooked fillets on a paper towel before serving. Salt and pepper to taste.