pan roasted trout – whole : pickled potatoes : can you handle it? : of course you can!

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This presentation can be a bit shocking or lacking refinement  to some, although I really hope not.  It is very rustic (not primal, come one!) and certainly a bit out of fashion maybe? (not in many countries!) but I really like eating fish this way sometimes. It too keeps me in touch with the fact that  foods don’t come from a can, boxes or some plastic container with some fancy logos and some bonus recipes on the back. But everybody knows that so, let’s get down to business here (If you’re still here). Let’s pan roast this trout and accompany it with some pickled potatoes, a light vermouth butter sauce and some oregano and parsley, what do you say?: 

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check out this beautiful trout. Clear eyes, not hazy eyes, that’s what you want. Smell it, shouldn’t smell fishy, should just smell fresh.

When pan roasting, I like to keep it simple, specially with fish. I salt it generously, over the skin and inside the cavity. I would let the fish get closer to room temperature before throwing it on the hot pan. Fish will cook quickly, specially this rather small trout. Since we aren’t cooking it sous vide (which would ensure a perfect doneness throughout the entire fish) we will overcook the it a bit in the thinner areas closer to the tail which is virtually inevitable. So anything we can do to minimize this is worth the effort. Letting the fish rest and get closer to room temperature is one of them.

Some people score the skin to avoid the fish from curling on the pan making the roasting uneven… I don’t think that would be a problem with whole fish. They tend to stay flat on the pan. This technique is more useful when cooking smaller fish like sardines for example, or when cooking smalls fillets. It might help keeping the skin from tearing when retrieving the fish, but I was ok with some tearing. While is cooking, the skin might help keep the moisture in the fish. It’s up to you.

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So finally the fish is on the pan, doesn’t have to be searing hot, but hot enough to get a nice sizzling sound. You can add some coarsely ground pepper. That will add texture and an amazing flavor to the fish. Let the fish sear on each side for a couple of minutes at least. With a fish turner, carefully check the underside for browning. If you see a nice golden finish, it is time to turn the fish.. again, carefully, takes some practice but is not that hard.  Cook on the other side. I insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the fish, right behind the gills, and leave there it cooks. When it reaches about 125 °F, take the pan off the heat and remove the trout. Carry over heat will finish the job at this point and you will end up with a very moist piece of fish that is crispy on the outside.

Note: I added splashes of water and a couple of vermouth splashes to the pan to get some steam to help the fish reach the desired temperature and cook evenly.

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For the potatoes, I sliced a russet potato, left the skin on, (what I had at hand), about 3mm in thickness each. Added them to a pot of boiling water, some salt, and some white wine vinegar. The quantities are like most seasoning, mainly up to you. Before boiling the water, you can taste it and adjust the flavors, the potatoes will absorb that water so, if the water is too salty, or not acidic enough, so will the potatoes be. Adjust the water to taste. You can check seasoning mid way too, just grab a slice of partially cooked potato and eat it 🙂 that’ll show you what it tastes like.

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The sauce is the simplest thing in the world. Once you have a a hot pan, no fish in it, but the oil used to cook the fish, brown bits and seasoning left behind, it is time to make a quick pan sauce. Add a Tbsp of butter to the pan and watch it melt (I love this step) once melted, still it, get all those pan juices mixed with the butter. Add some oregano and parsley leaves. Add another splash of vermouth, reduce until syrupy, add some water if it gets to dry. I alway taste the sauce at this point so I can adjust salt before serving. Once I’m happy, I pour it all over the fish and the potatoes. This isn’t a heavy butter sauce, it is rather clear. I like it that way.

Note: Adding oregano and parsley at the end will ensure that their delicate flavors aren’t cooked off.

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Final garnishing. I added some sweet paprika over the whole dish to get some smoky notes. Lemon wedges, and I poured some lemon juice over the whole dish. Lemon does something fantastic to fatty tissues. In the case of fish, it cuts through the fattiness and makes the texture even more appealing and sexy. Otherwise some fish might be perceived as a bit slimy when eaten. Ceviche is a great example of what acid does to fish. Not only it cooks (denatures) the protein, it gives it a wonderful texture and bite!

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I hope you enjoyed this cooking adventure as much as I did.  A bit too graphic? wait for my suckling pig post coming up! (just kidding, I wouldn’t know where to get a whole pig around here… yet) Thank you for stopping by! please please please! your comments are so very welcome leave some! until the next one! I promise I will stop using parsley to garnish my dishes! Just hard to use an entire bunch fast enough!!

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21 comments

  1. I am salivating! Wonderful adventure right up until the part where the realization that I desperately want your fish RIGHT NOW (even though it’s past midnight) struck home. The pickled potatoes with the fish is very Polish. (My mother is Polish.) Nice touch.

    1. hahahahah! that’s a wonderful comment thank you!!! I don’t know where I got the whole pickled potatoes thing from exactly, but I remember my grandma pouring olive oil and red wine vinegar over boiled potatoes with some salt (half my family is from spain) and I always loved it. thank you for visiting me!

  2. This sounds like a wonderful dish…very similar to one I was served at a restaurant on Lake Constance last year. Simple and oh so delicious.

  3. This looks amazing! I love pan roasted fish! Side story – I recently ordered Steelhead Trout at a restaurant thinking it was going to be like the above fish and I was so sad when it came and it was more like salmon. Still good but I love white trout like you made!

  4. This is a great way to prepare trout, Paul, one that I often do, too. I prepare trout about once a year and, every time, I ask myself why it took me a year to make it again. Never fails. Even now, I’m reading your recipe and salivating over your photos, wondering why I didn’t have trout for dinner. This has to change. Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

    1. Thank you John! Believe me, I eat trout once a year too, and don’t know why, it is so easy to make and so wonderful to eat. We have really good fish here and I rarely make fish dishes even though fish is my favorite thing to eat. This HAS to change! 🙂

  5. Love this post, Paul! We seem to use very similar techniques, like cooking the trout to about 125 degrees, making a pan sauce, etc. Beautiful photography. I often prepare whole fishes, but usually don’t serve them like that to guests because many people don’t like dealing with the bones and eyes. If the trout is fresh and cooked just right, the flesh will slide right off the bones. The thin bones around the cavity can be a bother, though. I like your simple seasoning with salt and lemon juice. I’ve tried trout sous-vide, but the ‘muddy’ taste that freshwater fish often has was accentuated too much in the (farmed) trout I used. Again, I really like your new post structure!

    1. Thanks Stefan! I’m glad you’re enjoying the post structure.. it means more writing, but I also find that cooking anything needs a bit of an explanation rather than just some rigid instructions. You take the time to go over all those details on your blog, I like that too. Like you say and agree, I don’t think trout needs tons of seasoning, it is a wonderful fish to pan roast. I haven’t tried sous vide trout yet. Maybe I don’t need to! 🙂

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