The ice is off the lakes and streams, and a friendly fisherman gave us a nice trout the other day.
With so many rivers and lakes in these parts, we live in a fisherman’s paradise. It is important to store your catch on ice and bring it home quickly. When buying whole trout at the market, look for shiny skin, bright red gills and clear, bright eyes. It should not have a strong fishy odor, but should smell clean and fresh. Buy it last before heading home, and store it in the coldest part of your refrigerator.
If you can’t eat all of your catch, freeze it. Cut off the head and tail to save space, then slide the fish into a plastic freezer bag, expelling the air before you seal it. To use, allow the fish to gradually defrost in the refrigerator.
There’s no need to remove the small scales when preparing trout. Doing so removes the thin coat of natural jelly that allows the trout to be breaded easily, with no need for additional liquid.
Whether baked, broiled, grilled, fried, microwaved or steamed, trout is not only delicious; it’s healthy. A good source of protein, cold-water fatty fish like trout are high in two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-3s are good for cardiovascular health as well as brain function. They may help lower the risk of depression, and help fight cancer, colitis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Whatever method you choose, it is best to cook trout fast, at relatively high temperatures. To preserve the natural goodness of the fish, use mild-flavored fats such as corn oil or butter. Good herbs for seasoning include dill, parsley, and thyme. Trout should be moist and fork-tender. Be careful not to overcook or the fish will become tough and dry. The fish is done when there is no blood visible and when it gives just a little when pressed with a finger and flakes when probed with a fork.
When baking, use a hot oven (400-425 degrees) and use oil seasoned with herbs to enhance moisture and flavor. Many baked recipes call for sauces, marinades or stuffings; these can enhance the dish but are not really necessary.
When broiling or grilling, never place the fish closer than four inches from the heat source. Baste with oil or sauce before and during cooking. Cooking time will vary with the size of the trout and the temperature. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.
Boiling will destroy the delicate flavor of the trout, but you can poach it by immersing it in a seasoned broth or wine and simmering it just until tender.
When frying, use a light coating or batter so as not to absorb too much oil, and cook at a moderate temperature, turning the fish.
The high temperature and quick cooking time of a microwave is well suited for trout. Cover the fish but allow venting of steam. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the fish and the particular microwave, but leave the fish a little undercooked and keep it covered; it will continue to cook for another three or four minutes after the microwave is off.
Baked Trout with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
1 trout, about 12-14 inches long
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup white wine
1/2 small onion, peeled and sliced thin (half a cup)
1/4 bell pepper, washed and sliced thin (half a cup)
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mash garlic with the salt; rub the fish inside and out. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of basil.
Pour wine into the bottom of a baking dish and place fish in wine. Brush top lightly with oil.
Slice onion and pepper thinly and arrange on top of fish. Add sun-dried tomatoes with a little of their oil over the top.
Bake for 10 minutes at 400, then turn fish over and bake 10 minutes more.
Baked Stuffed Trout
2 Tablespoons oil, divided
1 large onion
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup couscous
1 cup broth or water
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons white wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons lemon pepper
2 teaspoons lemon thyme, divided
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan. Peel and dice the onion and add, along with the sliced mushrooms. Cook about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the couscous, broth or water with half a teaspoon of salt and the wine. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Add all the parsley and a teaspoon each of lemon pepper and thyme and stir with a fork. This is enough stuffing for 3 or 4 trout, depending on the size of the fish.
Season the cavity of the fish with salt and pepper and fill with the couscous mixture. Place the fish in a lightly oiled, shallow baking dish. Brush with additional oil and sprinkle with the remaining salt, lemon, pepper and thyme. Bake in a preheated oven about 30-35 minutes, until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.