Wild Recipes

Morel Butter-Poached Crappie

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While frying panfish is a tried-and-true method, bathing the fish in softly simmering fat makes it sweet and tender, perfect for eating off the bone and sharing spring with someone special.

This Morel Butter-Poached Crappie recipe was born out of serendipity. After a frustrating turkey hunt and a long workday, I needed to relax and had a feeling that fly fishing would be good.

Despite the strong wind, mist, and falling temperature, the fish hit hard. Rapid casts, aggressive presentation, and fast retrieval with a large black popper drew young largemouth bass and bluegill. 


On the walk back to the car, I trolled along the bank and was delighted to harvest my first black crappie. I knew it was time to pick the morels I’d been saving in yard for a well-deserved wild meal.

I keep my panfish whole for this method, but you could certainly cook fillets this way. Use a good quality cultured grass-fed butter – it has subtle umami undertones that pair wonderfully with the morels. Their earthy flavor and rich aroma infuses the butter and creates an aromatic, deeply savory cooking fat to immerse your firm-fleshed white fish.


Serves: 2
Also works with: Bluegill, bass, white crappie
Time to make: 45 min
Special Equipment: Cast Iron Skillet
Sides: crusty bread, white wine

Looking for more freshwater fish recipes? Try out this Irish-American Fish Pie recipe by Jeff Benda!

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Morel Butter-Poached Crappie

Recipe by Heidi Chaya
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Course: Wild Recipes


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  • 1 whole black crappie or other panfish, scaled and cleaned

  • 1 cup cultured unsalted butter, or enough to submerge your panfish

  • 1/4 cup morels

  • 1 tsp sea salt

  • 1 -2 cups microgreens or spring greens

  • Black pepper, to taste


  • Begin by melting butter over medium heat in a cast iron skillet of appropriate size for your fish.
  • Brush any debris off your morels and give them a very brief, light rinse (if necessary). Slice them lengthwise and set aside.
  • Rinse your panfish and pat dry. Score the skin of your panfish crosswise to allow the butter to seep in. Liberally salt the fish inside and out.
  • Skim the solids off the top of your butter to clarify it as it heats up.
  • Place your panfish into the drawn butter. If the fish sizzles at all, remove the skillet from heat to let it cool and reduce the cooking temperature – you want to poach, not deep fry!
  • Poach the panfish for 10 minutes per half inch of thickness. The fish pictured took about 15 minutes. During the last third of cooking time, add your morels.
  • Once the mushrooms are cooked through, remove the fish from the skillet.
  • Plate the fish on a bed of greens, drizzling everything with the morel butter and seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Sit back, give thanks, and enjoy the ephemeral tastes of spring!

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Heidi Chaya

Heidi Chaya is a food journalist, farmhand, and avid home cook. Her experiences living and working in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley provide her with many opportunities to expand her culinary horizons and continue to learn and grow through fishing, foraging, and hunting.

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