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All about the trout

June 22, 2015

Trout with dill sauce photographed Wednesday, June 3, 2015.

How great are trout? They’re so great that they are as pretty as a rainbow.

Pull one out of the lake and slap it on a hot, greased skillet and there is nothing better. Some of the fanciest restaurants around are proud to serve trout that came from mountain (and local) streams. And even though it is a freshwater fish, some trout will live in the ocean for a couple of years, meaning saltwater anglers can catch them, too. How great is that? It’s so great that Franz Schubert wrote an entire quintet about them.

They’re thin, so they cook quickly. Their bones are easily removed. They look the way a fish ought to look (have you seen a monkfish? Those things are freaky). And most important, they are flat-out delicious.

For most people, there is but one way to cook a trout. It involves slapping it on a hot, greased skillet. But I wanted to mix things up a bit. So I roasted one in the oven. I poached another in a red wine sauce.

And a third I slapped on a hot, greased skillet. But for that one, I tried something new.

Traditionally, pan-fried trout are dredged through seasoned flour and cooked in hot oil or butter. Cooks wanting a crispier fish will dredge it through flour, dip it in eggs and then dredge it through more flour, bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs. Some will go so far as to use cornmeal.

But I wanted better than flour. Better than bread crumbs. Better than cornmeal.

Fish pairs well with nuts, though you have to do it right. One of the worst restaurant meals of my life was in Lynchburg, Va., when I ordered cashew-covered fish of some sort, maybe even trout. It just tasted oily. Oily and chewy.

The lessons I learned (other than the lesson to avoid that restaurant) were that the nut coating has to be fine, not chunky, and that the dish has to be cooked at a high temperature.

Which is where almond flour comes in. Almond flour is fairly fine, and it will cook quickly. Almond flour is also expensive, but you can make it yourself. I made it myself once, which is why I now buy it despite the cost.

I dredged my fish through seasoned flour first, then egg, then almond flour. I heated up a combination of olive oil and butter — it’s an old Northern Italian trick that gives whatever is cooked in it a wonderful flavor — and then waited for the foaming from the butter to subside. That’s when I knew the fat was ready for the fish.

I fried it flesh (and almond-flour) side down for three minutes, flipped it and then fried it skin-side down for an additional two minutes. All it needed then was a squeeze of lemon, some roasted potatoes and a salad. The almond flour gave the sweet fish just the right hint of nuttiness.

It was superb.

Next up was a trout simmered in red wine, and I’m not going to lie to you: this is not the most visually appealing dish. The red wine turns the fish a kind of dull purple.

So I bit into it with some trepidation, but it turned out to be quite good. Better than quite good, actually. The wine, sweetened a bit with carrots and spiced with thyme, conveyed a hearty, earthy flavor to the perfectly cooked fish.

That first taste dispelled my other trepidation, too. This recipe came from the book "Fish," by Mark Bittman, and I wrote a few weeks ago that I do not necessarily trust Bittman’s recipes to be accurate or palatable. But "Fish" is widely considered to be a classic, and it came out early in his career when he had more time to take care with his recipes.

What intrigues me most about this recipe, other than the unique flavor it gives the trout, is what it does with the poaching liquid. Ordinarily, the liquid used for poaching is not used to make a sauce, or if it is, the thickening agent is added after the fish is removed. But here Bittman adds flour along with the spices right into the wine before the fish is submerged. The sauce thickens as the fish cooks.

It’s an interesting idea, and it works brilliantly well.

Finally, I stuffed and roasted a trout and served it with potatoes and a lime-dill butter sauce. That sounds great, right?

Well it is. The trout is stuffed with dill and lime, and at first I was a little wary of using dill because it is not an obvious match for the trout. But then I remembered that trout is actually a close relative of salmon, and nothing goes with salmon like dill. So I gave it a shot, and I’m glad I did.

Roasting the trout at a high temperature helped to concentrate its flavor and allowed the taste of the dill to permeate the fish. The potatoes are roasted at the same time — in fact, the trout sits on top of them to allow the flow of hot air around it — making this an easy meal to prepare.

It is also an impressive dish to serve, especially if you cook it with the head and tail. Bring it out on a platter with the potatoes and the lime-dill butter sauce, and it looks every bit as amazing as it tastes.

How great is that?

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TROUT SIMMERED IN RED WINE

Yield: 2 servings

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup minced shallots

1/2 cup minced carrot

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Several sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley, plus more for garnish

Salt and pepper

1 1/2 cups good red wine

2 whole trout, about 3/4 pound each, gutted, with or without heads

1. Heat the butter over medium heat in a steep-sided 10-inch skillet. When it has melted, add the shallots and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are soft. Add the flour and stir; add the thyme, bay leaf, parsley and salt and pepper to taste; stir and cook for about 1 minute, then add the wine. Raise the heat a bit until the wine starts to bubble, then reduce it so that the wine simmers.

2. Add the trout to the skillet and simmer, turning once, for a total of about 10 to 12 minutes; the flesh will become tender and pale when the trout is done. Remove the trout and keep it warm; reduce the sauce over high heat until it is quite thick, then spoon it over the fish. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Per serving: 500 calories; 20 g fat; 10 g saturated fat; 227 mg cholesterol; 42 g protein; 14 g carbohydrate; 3 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 159 mg sodium; 75 mg calcium.

Recipe from "Fish: The Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking," by Mark Bittman

PAN-FRIED ALMOND TROUT

Yield: 2 servings

1 cup all-purpose flour

Salt and pepper to taste

1 egg, beaten

1 cup almond flour

2 trout, filleted and butterflied

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

Wedges of lemon

1. Spread the all-purpose flour on a flat plate and season well with salt and pepper. Put the egg in a bowl or plate next to it, and spread the almond flour on a plate next to that.

2. Take each trout in turn and dredge the flesh side lightly through the all-purpose flour, the egg and then the almond flour. Set aside.

3. In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter together over medium-high heat until the foaming from the melting butter has subsided. Place the trout flesh-side down in the hot oil (you may have to do this in batches) and fry until the bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Carefully flip the trout and fry on the other side until the fish is done, about 2 more minutes.

4. Serve with wedges of lemon.

Per serving: 726 calories; 53 g fat; 9 g saturated fat; 189 mg cholesterol; 49 g protein; 18 g carbohydrate; 2 g sugar; 6 g fiber; 175 mg sodium; 268 mg calcium.

Recipe by Daniel Neman

ROASTED TROUT WITH LIME-DILL BUTTER AND ROASTED POTATOES

Yield: 2 servings

2 (12-ounce) boned rainbow trout, with head and tail

1 lime, very thinly sliced

1 bunch fresh dill, divided

Salt and pepper

1 pound small red potatoes

4 tablespoons butter, divided

4 cloves garlic, sliced

Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon water

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

2. Line the belly cavity of each trout with lime slices and a few sprigs of dill; set the remaining dill aside. Arrange the lime and dill so they will not fall out of the cavities. Season the outside of the fish with salt and pepper, and reserve.

3. If the potatoes are larger than a golf ball, cut them into wedges. Place them in a medium pot with enough cold water to barely cover them. Add 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil. Immediately drain and allow the potatoes to air dry for a few minutes.

4. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the garlic in a large ovenproof sauté pan over high heat. As the garlic begins to brown, add the potatoes and toss to coat with the butter. Allow the potatoes to sear in the pan until they begin to brown on one side.

5. Shake the pan to arrange the potatoes in a single layer — this will be the bed for the trout. Lay the stuffed trout on top of the potatoes and transfer to the oven. Roast until the trout is cooked through, about 12 minutes; check for doneness by gently lifting the belly flap to reveal the meat. If it is an even color all the way through, it is done.

6. For the lime butter, chop the remaining dill. Combine the lime juice and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, swirling the pan until it is all melted into the sauce. Season with salt and add the dill. Serve the butter on the side. Remove lime slices from fish before eating.

Per serving: 388 calories; 19 g fat; 10 g saturated fat; 121 mg cholesterol; 33g protein; 20g carbohydrate; 2g sugar; 2g fiber; 101mg sodium; 151mg calcium.

Recipe from "For Cod and Country," by Barton Seaver

 

 


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