Now that trout fishing season is on full tilt in lakes and rivers, it's time to get serious about the many ways we can prepare this delicious fish from the salmonidae family. Because kayak fishing is becoming extremely popular (not to mention canoe fishing, which has been a classic for so long among lovers of the great outdoors) chances are you might want to give it a try soon. Or, perhaps you will find yourself paddling alongside a friend who is an avid trout angler for a weekend trip. Why not offer to help prepare the meal with a few nice and easy trout recipes? Even if you’re not interested in dropping a line yourself, you probably enjoy the delicate taste of rainbow trout; so you can also decide to simply buy fresh trout at your local fish market and bring it with you on board for your next paddling trip. Safely packed in ice it will make the most delicious dinner for your first night at the base camp. So there’s really no reason not to enjoy trout on your next expedition, not matter what the camping conditions are!
The great advantage of this exquisite fish is that it is so easy to prepare in different ways. Once the fish is cleaned, you just have to fill the cavity with your favorite preparation and to put it either in the pan or on the coals for a gourmet meal that’s ready in 7 minutes. If you happen to be lucky enough to catch a trout that’s more than a pound and a half, I recommend that you make 2 fillets out of it and that you cook them for about 5 minutes, on the skin side only, for best results. You can also choose to poach your fillets in a few tablespoons of white wine or lemon juice.
The simpler the better
When it comes to trout, you want to keep your garnish preparation simple in order to fully enjoy its delicate flavor. "Forget heavy spices such as chillies, ginger or curry powder, which will overpower the fish taste, and opt rather for fresh herbs, which will underline its qualities", says chef Claude Blais. This great cook has been working for 10 years in one of the fanciest outfitting camps in Eastern Canada, Lac-à-l’Eau-Claire Inn, which serves up 5 tons of lake trout each year.
But certain bold flavors are also interesting and can be used with rainbow trout. For instance, a classic preparation called "à la forestière" calls for a bit of bacon, onion and finely chopped mushrooms. The earthy tones of mushrooms are a lovely complement for the delicate pink fish flesh. Another easy preparation that’s delicious is fish gently fried in the pan with a bit of butter, then sprinkled with a dash or two of fresh lemon juice and seasoned with cracked pepper and fresh parsley. Or try to wrap your trout in aluminum foil with good extra-virgin olive oil, a dash or two of balsamic vinegar and chopped French shallot. Cook on the coals for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness, turning once, and serve with vegetable rice. Fennel or dill is also an exquisite companion for trout, along with orange slices and chives. Smoked trout and trout tartare (made with raw fish) are two other excellent ways to prepare trout (see recipe below for tartare), not to mention sushi and sashimi, the Japanese way.
Chef Blais will often prepare a quick cream sauce to accompany his fish, which might be a bit complicated for campers since cream spoils so easily. But I have recently fallen in love with a new product that can be found in health food stores and that is an excellent (and safe) replacement for cream because it needs no refrigeration as long as the container is not open. It is called Belsoy creamy Soy Preparation, it looks and tastes like heavy cream, but without the fat and calories. Use it as you would use cream: no one around will see the difference, except, maybe your waistline! So if you decide to prepare a "cream sauce", simply fry your fish in the pan, remove the fish and keep it warm. Add one half cup of white dry wine and reduce by half over high heat. Then, add a bit of Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, a fresh herb and the soy cream and let reduce by half again. Pour over the fish and enjoy!
When taste meets health
Trout is an excellent source of proteins and of Omega-3 beneficial fats, which are actually good for your blood stream and your immune system. Omega-3 fats are known to protect the body against free radicals and inflammation, both of which contribute to chronic diseases such as cancer. It is an excellent source of phosphorus, a mineral that is good for bones and teeth health, an excellent source of vitamin B-3, B-6 and B-12 (for optimal development and strong immune system). Finally, it is also excellent to maintain a healthy weight since 3.5 oz contain only 150 calories. Contrary to other fresh water predator fish (pickerel, grey trout, pike, etc.) rainbow trout is not a significant source of mercury and trout that is produced through aquaculture are considered to be very safe for the environment. That’s other good reasons to fully enjoy this delicious fish.
Best ways to cook trout
- To obtain good results, freshness is mandatory. Trout must be eaten within 48 hours after being caught.
- To cook trout fillets in the pan: heat canola, olive oil or butter (or a mix of oil and butter) and cook on skin for 4 minutes over medium-high heat. For best results, flesh should remain slightly "rosé".
- To cook an entire fish: dredge in flour, shake off excess and cook 3-4 minutes in a hot pan on each side. The same technique applies on the barbecue. But omit flour and brush the skin and the flesh with a bit of olive oil.
- To poach: bring water to a boil, season with white wine or lemon and peppercorns. The level of liquid should only cover the fish. When water boils, lower temperature and put the trout in. Liquid should not boil. Poach until flesh turns a nice pink. Do not overcook! Serve with mayonnaise.
- If you use it for a tartare or a ceviche, make sure that it is of the utmost freshness.
RecipesTrout tartare from Chef Claude Blais (Lac-à-l’Eau-Claire Inn)
- Ingredients for 4 people
- 2-1 pound trout fillets, very finely chopped
- 2 Italian tomatoes, very finely diced
- 1 small clove of garlic, finely crushed and chopped
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh chive, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 tsp ketchup
- Tabasco to taste
- Worcestershire sauce to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste