I remember fishing for trout once with my dad. We were on a father-daughter trip visiting some family friends, and went fishing near Lake Almanor. I was 11 and thought it was the most awesome thing in the world that I had caught more fish than Dad. Apparently I didn’t give much thought to what would become of the trout. When we got back to the house it dawned on me that there was still another step to this whole fishing business. I wasn't sure what was required at this point, but I did know I wanted nothing to do with it. I promptly headed the opposite direction of the cleaning station. Now...I wouldn't consider myself squeamish when it comes to raw fish/poultry/meat, but I wanted no part in being the last person a trout sees. Plus, if you can handily play the “girl” card, why not use it? Sure I could catch the fish, but lucky for me, Dad was nice enough not to call me on a technicality.
Fast forward to today: "Hello kind fishmonger, I’ll take two trout, cleaned and dressed." Let's leave the fishing to the fishermen.
Trout went missing from my life for many years. Dad wasn’t fishing anymore, and that seemed to be the only time we really ate it growing up. Then, about a year ago, I wisely ordered the trout at a restaurant in Yosemite. I pledged that I would make it at home. A year went by, and I finally had it again at a restaurant in Portland. This was getting ridiculous…
…until those two little beauties up there entered my kitchen.
Butterflied Trout in Pan Sauce
Turns out that even when you buy trout all cleaned up, you still have to deal with the bones. And there are about nine million bones per trout. Since I’d never even dealt with a whole fish before, I did a little pre-cooking internet research. Looked easy enough. Remove the head, the fins, and the tail. De-bone by cutting through the pin bones all the way along the backbone, removing it completely. The result is a butterflied trout. Well that was easy…what was I so worried about?
Prep two dishes for breading the fish: one with a beaten egg, one with flour. Heat some olive oil and a little butter in a stainless pan. Lightly bread the meaty side of the fish, first dipping it in the egg, then the flour. This will help create a browned crust. (No need to bread the skin side.)
Pan-fry the trout on each side, about 3 minutes per side. (I started with skin down, but I don’t know that it matters.) Once the fish is in the pan, don’t fiddle with it. You won’t get a crust if you do. (If your pan is too small to do both fish at once, the second fish will cook faster than the first because your pan will be so hot. Trout #2 took significantly less time for me.)
When the fish is done, transfer them to a plate and cover. And do not even think about wiping out that pan!
Deglaze the pan with some white wine. After scraping up all the delicious bits off the bottom of the pan, add some lemon juice and let the liquid reduce. Next add butter and let that reduce a bit as well. Throw in some capers and slivered almonds, then add heavy cream and reduce yet again. (This all happens very quickly since the amount of sauce is minimal.)
Plate the trout, pour some of that silky pan sauce over, and sprinkle a little chopped fresh parsley on top. Time to eat!
Remember when I wondered what I had been so worried about in de-boning the fish? Well, it turns out that all those little pin bones you hack through to remove the backbone aren’t so little when they get stuck in your throat. Thankfully I did not serve this dish to company…I only tried to choke Andy.
Except for that, this dish hit the spot for my trout craving. The fish was tender and flaky, and the pan sauce was the right accompaniment: bright from the lemon with little extra crunch from the capers and almonds.
So my next question for the fishmonger is an obvious one...and once I figure out how to COMPLETELY de-bone a trout, I will be giving this one another try. It can then take its rightful place on the roster of company-worthy food.