Suzi and I were at a restaurant bar, waiting for a table. The gentleman next to us was avoiding the wait. A waiter brought him a plate of trout, frosted with strips of cucumber and papaya sliced with a mandoline. The smell of the trout reminded me how lovely this distinctive fish can be. Because I need my fingertips to type, I will not be using a mandoline.
Here’s a perfect trout recipe from three years ago.
You are probably very proud of your kitchen. You’ve invested time in the appliances, the cabinets, tile and lighting. And you have found that the kitchen is often the centerpiece of family life.
What is underused in your kitchen? Here’s a hint: look up. Yes, that hood and vent system, that beautiful vent. You rarely turn it on because, like most of us, you really don’t want to mess with smells in the kitchen. Like fried fish.
I understand. But, and this is a big but, you need to understand that the hood can easily remove any fried fish smells. You kitchen will not be a toxic smell zone. On the other hand, you can enjoy something sublime: the moist softness of pan-fried trout.
There are a few fish that have truly distinctive flavors. Why do you get offered salmon at every wedding and charity event? Trout, much like salmon, has a flavor that no other fish comes close to resembling. Unlike salmon, trout tastes much more subtle. Unless you cook it to death, the meat is moist and soft to the bite. And the flavor, the flavor is fulfilling.
Cooked the right way, trout is wonderful. And the right way for eating is also the right way for your kitchen. You will not generate lots of smoke or smell or grease on your stovetop.
Simple pan-fried means that the flavor comes from the fish plus salt and pepper. The fish is dredged in flour, and that is the opportunity to add a little, or some, or lots and lots of flavor. To the flour+salt+pepper, you can add chile powder, paprika, or herbs. Just remember that a little goes a very long way. And that trout is delicate. You can overpower if you spice too much. So, I recommend a light hand with the spices. That’s why I suggest 1 teaspoon for two fish below.
By beginning to cook the fish with the skin side down, you will not have to fuss with constant moving of the fish. An occasional nudge to avoid sticking is fine. If your heat is too high, the smoke will let you know and you will want to lower that heat. The skin is lovely to eat when it is cooked but not blackened.
Unlike other fish where some sauce or salsa is needed for flavor satisfaction, all trout needs is a gentle squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Or, just a drop of hot sauce. Just one.
Trout can be accompanied by vegetable side dishes, potatoes in any format, or a salad with a crisp vinaigrette. It’s your choice and you cannot make a mistake.
Trout is inherently special and elegant, so a sparkling wine is a fine pairing. This dish is fast to prepare but does have mega quality of flavor and superb visual presentation. This is not chicken. So, if you are having a busy week, but you want a special weeknight dinner with that sparkling wine and candles, trout is a choice that may surprise and that will surely please. Save the salmon for the wedding.
Pan Fried Trout
Yield: trout for 2
- 2 trout, ideally fresh, but defrosted is fine
- 1 cup of flour
- Salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon of any spice or herb you wish to add
- 1 ½ tablespoons of butter
- Lemon slices for garnish, lemon halves for juice
- Parsley or other herb for garnish
If the heads and tails are still on the trout, cut them off. On the outer skin, there will be little fins that you can trim off yourself if you don’t want to eat something a little crunchy.
Wash and pat dry the fish. They can still be a tad moist.
In 9-inch square pan, spread the flour, add the salt and pepper plus any spices, and use a fork to mix the ingredients together. Shake the pan to level the flour mixture.
Take one trout, open it wide, and lay it on the flour mixture. Press gently. Remove the trout, turn it over, and flour the other side. If there are bare spots, flick some flour on them. Repeat with the other trout. Set the two fish aside.
In a medium-sized cast iron pan, melt the butter and swirl it to cover the surface. Lay the trout in the pan, skin side down. There will be sizzle and at first a little smoke. You have so little butter involved that the floured fish should be smothering any intense smells. If you need or want to, turn on your hood.
Cook for five minutes, nudging slightly a couple of times to prevent sticking. Turn the fish over and cook for another 4-5 minutes. You’ll want to peek to see if the fish is turning black or drying out.
Remove the pan from the heat and immediately remove the fish from the pan. Place the trout on your plates and garnish as you wish.