Wild About - Trout


In the Rockies, it's easy to be wild about trout. Unlike the vast majority of wild foods, trout can be harvested year-round here. Even in deep winter, you can fish tailwaters - the water just below reservoirs, which doesn't freeze because it's coming from the bottom of the lake.  I realize that mid-winter stream fishing isn't most people's cup of tea. But just think of the reward - primo eats, trout plucked from clean mountain waters. Considering the price of fish, a license pays for itself with just a few pounds.

And these trout look nothing like their sad, store-bought cousins.  I glanced at the fish counter at the grocery the other day, and the fish they were calling trout were dull and pale and dry. Trout fresh from the ice cold waters of the Rockies are entirely different - rainbow trout live up to their name, brown trout are dappled in the colors of autumn, and brook trout (brookies are my favorite!) have flesh so taught and pink and and flavorful that once tasted, you'll never be able to get it out of your mind.

I was bewitched by brookies cooked over a campfire, after having bravely crawled out of my warm sleeping bag on a camping trip many years ago. And I've never had a finer breakfast. In fact, to this day, if I've got fresh trout, I'm likely to cook them for breaky, in an attempt to recapture that taste memory.

Pan-fried Trout

The vast majority of trout that come through my kitchen get pan-fried whole. It's an easy technique, and preserves the simple sweet meat, close to the bone. Begin by slitting the belly of the fish, and gutting it. After that, all you have to do is rinse it thoroughly, and you're ready to go. Trout don't need to be scaled, and they taste best when cooked whole, with heads and skin left on.

Salt and pepper both the inside and outside of the trout, then dust them with cornmeal. Fry them in a cast iron pan in a liberal amount of bacon grease on both sides until the flesh becomes opaque. Enjoy hot from the skillet while the skin is still crispy. And don't forget to eat the cheeks.

Trout Roe Caviar and Bottarga

If it's the right time of year, and you're lucky enough to find roe in your trout, do not throw it away.  In the very least, toss it into the frying pan briefly. However, it's fairly easy to make homemade caviar.  Just strip the eggs out of the skein with your fingers (or push them though a sieve if you have one of the correct size), give them a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar, and let them cure for a few hours. It really is that easy.

But sometimes stripping roe from skeins is more work than I'd like to do, so instead, I like to preserve the trout roe in the style of bottarga.

To make trout roe bottarga, keep the trout egg skeins in tact, and pack them liberally with a salt which doesn't have chemical additives.  Leave them in a cool dry place, rotating and flipping, until the roe is completely dried.  Preserved in this way, bottarga keeps indefinitely.

So now you're asking how do you use your homemade trout roe bottarga?  You've heard the Italian rule that fish should never be served with cheese, right? Well, that's where bottarga comes in.  Grate just a bit of bottarga over fish dishes for a subtle, briney finish.  Trout roe bottarga is also amazing with scrambled eggs, or grated into pasta dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice, or served on a cracker with cream cheese.

I'm sharing this post with the Hearth and Soul hop hop hopitty hop, Real Food Wednesday, and Real Food Deals, and Pennywise Platter Thursday.  Please visit the links.

Comments

  1. Ohh that just sounds so good -pan fried trout. Being able to catch fish right now would be such a treat and so much fun.

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  2. Wow. You're right - wild fish is NOTHING like what's in most stores! I'm super impressed by the homemade caviar!

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  3. Oh we LOVE fresh trout to :) There is a lake 10 minutes north of us stocked full of cut throat trout and we love to eat them pan fried in butter. Mmmm, so delicous!

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  4. Cool! I've never made...or eaten...botarga. I must try some. You're so right...your trout are gorgeous...just look at that color! I have a craving now. I love this post...you're my most favorite forager on the hearth and soul hop...and beyond! :D

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  5. Buttface, you inspire me to no end. When I come visit, can we go camping and have trout for breakfast?

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  6. Buttface! whooo hoo! another new nick name! I wanna come visit tooo and go camping as long as we can bring some coffee!!!! Seriously, you know I dont like fish, I have never EVER had trout, do you eat the whole head or like chicken pull it off the bone? do you eat the skin? this is all new to me! I am definitely a fish out of water when it comes to this stuff. Of course, if someone were to cook it for me and i could taste it just maybe I would like it! :) Thanks for hosting and posting on the hearth and soul hop as always butter beans! :) Alex

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  7. Wow, nice looking trouts! My dad caught some a few weeks ago and they are so delicious.

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  8. Those trout look so beautiful. Here in New Zealand commercial catching of trout is not allowed so we can't actually get trout unless you catch it yourself. I have only had it a couple of times and did really enjoy it. Fascinated by your bottarga, which is another thing I've never eaten :-)
    Sue

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  9. Rosy - Mmm, so lucky. I have to go a bit further here.

    Who ya callin' Buttface, you two ;) With trout, you pull the flesh from the bones, and most definitely eat the skin. I've actually got an instructional post about how to eat a whole trout coming up. You know I'll be happy to cook fish for you to try, Alex.

    Heather and Sue - If you can get your hands on some roe, the bottarga is easy to make and is lovely.

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  10. There is fish and then there is fresh caught mountain water fish! There are a lot of brook trout in the Sierras. So very delicious, but I must admit I leave the cleaning and cooking to my b-i-l and husband. I wonder if I can up the anty and get them to make me trout caviar. :)

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  11. This is great! I can't wait to share this with my husband. We live in PA and all of us enjoy trout fishing. My husband and f-i-l most! Hubby and a buddy decided to try trout roe straight from the fish and I guess it tasted pretty bad so we've never tried eating it any other way.

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  12. Yum. Thanks for the inspiration. Great pictures.

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  13. Well, they actually have to release rainbow trout here during January and February or we would never see any :). Dh took the dc a few weeks ago and then cooked them up on the back porch in a fire pit. Very good. When asked what her favorite part of fishing was, oldest dd said the 'gutting.' A biologist in the making, lol.

    I'm tagging this!

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  14. Oh wow...I'm gonna leave the new nickname alone! I took my boys to Colorado last summer and we caught trout every day and pan fried them for breakfast the next morning. I even showed my oldest how to eat the tails. He said it reminded him of a potato chip.

    Love the post and thanks for being ultimate forager on the hearth and soul hop.

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  15. Wanderer - I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who's willing to taste just about anything. I didn't really dig roe straight from the fish either. But cured, I'll eat that three meals a day. Go ahead, try to get me tired of it.

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  16. Love the post. It reminds me of my mom cooking fried fish. We usually eat it for lunch with a fresh salsa made in a molcajete. And warm tortillas. Hhhmmm. I will have to get some fish this weekend.

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  17. Oh, what a nice memory. I saw a molcajete in the market the other day and so badly wanted to get it.

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  18. Is there a specific time of year to harvest trout eggs? We catch trout all the time and there are alot that have eggs ...

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