Parmesan-and-Panko-Encrusted Whitefish with Lemon Caper Sauce

Back when Ginny and Gregg McCallum were in culinary school (she at Macomb Community College and he at Kendall College) they learned that Tapawingo, tucked into the tiny town of Ellsworth in Northern Michigan, was one of the best restaurants in the entire country. Lured by that knowledge, the couple made an annual pilgrimage to the restaurant on beautiful Ellsworth Lake, where the James Beard Award–nominated chef Harlan “Pete” Peterson turned out his widely acclaimed dinners.

Peterson closed Tap, as the restaurant was known, in 2009. By then the McCallums had followed their hearts north and opened a catering business, A Matter of Taste, in Charlevoix. When they found that the Tapawingo building was for sale, well, it had to be destiny. Today, the McCallums live in, and operate A Matter of Taste out of the former Tap. They also host weddings and other upscale events in the gracious former restaurant. When Ginny told us she’d like to submit a recipe for Parmesan encrusted whitefish, she added that while she realizes it is a ubiquitous Northern Michigan dish, it is a superbly delicious ubiquitous Northern Michigan dish when prepared correctly, as it is here.


  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 4 pounds whitefish filets (cut into 4- or 5-ounce pieces)
  • 1/2 cup soybean oil
Lemon Caper Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons small capers


Combine the flour with salt and pepper. Whip eggs until frothy and add a splash of water. Mix panko, Parmesan cheese, and lemon zest together. Form a breading station and dip cut fish fillets into flour, egg mixture and panko and Parmesan. Complete this process until all fillets are breaded. Pan fry fillets in Zoye soybean oil for approximately 3 minutes per side, and finish on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 degrees for 7 minutes. Prepare Sauce: Sauté shallots in 1/2 the butter for a few minutes, and add white wine. Reduce for 10 minutes on medium heat, add heavy whipping cream, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and continue stirring with a whisk until sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Add remaining butter, lemon juice, and capers. Top Fish with Lemon Caper Sauce and serve immediately.

Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowski