Trout:  Fit For a King

by Mark R. Vogel

       In 1812, with nearly seven hundred thousand men, Napoleon Bonaparte, self-crowned emperor of the French, and self-proclaimed king of Italy, embarked on his ill-fated plan to invade Russia.  It was the beginning of the end.  Having overextended his forces, much like Hitler would do over a century later, Napoleon’s outnumbered army was forced into a devastating retreat.  Sporadic skirmishes, disease, famine, desertion, accompanied by the infamous Russian winter, reduced Napoleon’s Grande Armee to twenty-two thousand men.  Among the casualties was acclaimed Chef Dartois Laguipiere, the namesake of various dishes later composed in his honor.  One of the meals he prepared for Napoleon was grilled trout, marinated in olive oil and lemon, and served with a mâitre d’hôtel sauce (butter, lemon juice, parsley and seasonings). 

            Trout are a nightmare to classify because of the number of species, intra-species variations, and hybridization, including the intermingling of native and foreign strains.  Nevertheless, trout are usually a freshwater fish found in the cooler streams and lakes of North America and Europe.  Related to salmon, a few species migrate from freshwater to saltwater during their lifespan.

          The flesh of trout is typically firm, and depending on habitat and diet, ranges in appearance from white, to salmon-colored.  The taste also varies, especially between wild and farmed trout.  Most trout contain a low to medium fat content.  One exception, Lake Trout, is high in fat and can be quite oily.  Trout are sold whole, filleted, frozen, canned, smoked and kippered (cured via salting, drying, and smoking). 

            Trout is one of the most widely farmed fish.  In fifteenth century Europe, Brown Trout were one of the first types of fish to be bred.  American hatcheries surfaced in the nineteenth century in order to replace the native population depredated by over fishing and pollution.  While farmed trout is quite tasty, it can’t compare with wild trout. 

            Rainbow Trout, which originated in the American West, are the most commonly farmed species of trout.  Their name is derived from the speckled, pinkish array of colors running along their midline.  Although capable of reaching fifty pounds or more, they are routinely sold less than ten pounds, particularly the twelve-ounce to three-pound range.  Steelheads are Rainbows that migrate to the sea. 

  Brown Trout, transplanted in America in the nineteenth century, also achieve considerable size, but like Rainbows, normally are marketed at lower weights.  Brook Trout are small, but considered by many to be the best tasting.  Usually not topping six pounds, Brook Trout are sold weighing about a pound or less.  They are indigenous to Eastern America, but have been transplanted throughout the country.  Lake Trout, as stated, have a high fat content and are most amenable to smoking.  They are found in the northern United States and Canada. 

            Trout can be cooked by sautéing, frying, or steaming, and thick cuts or whole fish by grilling or broiling. There are numerous classic recipes. Trout amandine (not “almondine” which is a misspelling), is sautéed in butter and topped with almonds.  Trout meuniére is dusted with flour, sautéed in butter, and served with beurre noisette, i.e., browned butter.  Trout au bleu is freshly killed, and immediately plunged into a vinegary court bouillon (an aromatic poaching liquid), and then served with butter or hollandaise sauce.  Trout is a good choice for the technique en papillote, whereby food is cooked wrapped in parchment paper.  The food gives off steam which is entrapped within the paper housing, producing a delicious, and delicately cooked victual.  In Corsica, the white-wine-with-fish rule is abandoned: trout is cooked in red wine with aromatics, in a long-handled pan called a poêlon. 

 

TROUT WITH HORSERADISH SAUCE
Serves two

             This recipe comes from Chef James Ehler.  Visit his website at foodreference.com.

1 cup dry vermouth or white wine

2 (4-6 oz.) trout fillets

Salt and pepper to taste

Half cup sour cream

2 tablespoons white horseradish, drained

1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced

2 small cucumbers, sliced
 

            Bring the vermouth or wine to a rolling boil in a pan designed to hold a steamer insert.  Season the trout with salt and pepper.  Add the trout to the steamer, cover, and steam for nine to ten minutes.   Remove the trout and allow to cool.  Combine the sour cream, horseradish and dill.  Serve the trout cool or fully chilled with the dressing.  Garnish with cucumber slices. 


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