Monday, May 2, 2011

May: Fish On!

With apologies to Alfred Lord Tennyson, “In spring a young man’s fancy turns lightly to thoughts of … trout.” Yes, the opening of trout season in Ontario is the fourth Saturday of April, and from then until closing at the end of September, trout are never far from my mind. As an avid (some might say obsessive) fly fisher, I love this time of year. During the winter I satisfy my addiction by tying flies that I imagine might tempt trout, and take a couple of trips south to play with other species like bonefish and redfish and snook… but my heart belongs to Ontario’s trout.

Although I am a devoted catch and release fisher, feeling that trout are much more valuable in the water than in the pan (and if I want to eat trout, I can buy farmed trout at any fishmonger), I do on occasion eat my catch, especially when I am on an extended canoe trip. When Valerie and I first met, she didn’t care for the taste of fish… until our first canoe trip into Algonquin Park. There, I caught a beautiful Brook Trout (actually, Brook Char, since, like Lake Trout, it is a member of the char family) and had it in the pan frying in butter within moments of taking it from the water. The taste of fresh -- really fresh -- trout meunière instantly turned her into a fan of fish, and she now prefers it to any other meat.

Trout meunière is the simplest of preparations, and enhances rather than overpowers the delicate, delicious flavour of fresh trout. Simply coat the fish fillets (or whole fish if it’s small enough) lightly in seasoned flour, and sauté them in a generous quantity of butter. When the fish is opaque (about 3 minutes each side -- don’t overdo it and dry it out!) put the fillets on a plate and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan before pouring the hot liquid over the fish. A squirt of fresh lemon adds a nice touch.

A more complex version (though still quite easy) makes the dish a little more special for company. It comes from the southern U.S., where the trout they use is not trout at all. The famous Gulf Speckled Trout is a type of saltwater drum and shares not a shred of trout heritage. However, this recipe, which has become a New Orleans tradition, does work with our “real” trout, especially the farmed rainbow trout found in most markets.

Trout Meunière Almondine

4 trout fillets, skin on
Milk (about a cup)
Seasoned flour (about a cup)
½ C plus 3 Tbsp butter
¾ C sliced almonds
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp lemon juice
4 green onions, chopped
Tabasco sauce

Heat 3 Tbsp of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Dip the fillets in the milk and then dredge in the seasoned flour, and gently put them into the hot butter. Sauté about 3 to 4 minutes on each side, remove from the pan and keep warm. Add ½ C of butter to the pan and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom. Add the almonds and cook until they are golden. Stir in the Worcestershire, lemon juice, and a squirt or two of Tabasco. Remove from the heat, and stir in the green onions. Serve the fillets with the sauce liberally poured over them.

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