The Power and the Glory of Eating Local: Grilled Fresh-Caught Trout

June 7, 2010

in Main Dishes, Wild Foods

I am a simple woman with simple tastes. I don’t need (very much) jewelry. I most definitely don’t need nice clothes. I use zero beauty products and don’t need to be surrounded by beautiful things to be happy. In fact, I am moved by stuff the most when it is free or next to free. As such, I am easy for a man to keep, on one condition – he needs to catch me some wild meat to eat. Bring me an animal carcass, and I will love you forever.

Having grown up without regularly running water, stable indoor heating, and much animal protein, let alone democratic government, it is not at all surprising that I dwell at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid. Hello, I am Sofya. My interests are safety, food, and shelter. I don’t mind. It’s a good place to be. Let other housewives have an existential crisis. With deer in my freezer and firewood in my yard, I couldn’t imagine more personal fulfillment. Not counting this blog. But it’s all about deer in the freezer and firewood in the yard anyway.

Luckily for me (and for him), my husband is excellent at providing all three – especially food. We raise our own beef and chickens, he reliably shoots me a deer every year (and now I do too), and, most recently, he learned how catch trout, even though he didn’t grow up in a fishing family.

The best part is that he learned how to do it just for me. In his own words, “I think of it as work, and I am happy to do it.” Which is the best of both worlds, really – I get fish and a husband who’s not crazy enough about fishing to use it, in the words of my favorite band, Da Yoopers, “to get away from da wife.” (On an unrelated note, I find it endlessly charming that a group of teens is devoted to the cause enough to make their own video for this magnificent song. In case you don’t realize it, deer hunting and deer paraphernalia is a full-blown local form of totemism, in which I participate with gusto).


Anyhow, trout from the local streams is an amazing thing to eat. Incomparably more flavorful than its storebotten cousin, wild trout is wonderfully oily, which I find irresistibly delicious, so much so that I eat every bit of the skin as well – that’s where all the flavor is, anyway. But, more importantly, caught and consumed the same day, it is also one of the freshest things we eat. Its freshness is so profound, it’s almost a spiritual experience. If you ever read Master and Margarita, you will maybe remember the scene where Azazello is roasting some extremely fresh meat over fireplace using the tip of his sword as a skewer in order to demonstrate to a crooked cafeteria manager, who regularly serves second-rate food to his customers, what fresh really means. I always think of that passage when I have fresh fish like that. I wish Azazello paid a visit to our food industry executives.

trout2

My honey caught me these two fishies yesterday morning. I am proud to say I cleaned (as in “gutted”) them myself, because my brother-in-law showed me how to do it last year. It just so happens that cleaning fish is one of my favorite things to do. You can’t thrive at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid and be squeamish at the same time. Would you like a tutorial on that too? I’ll make you one next time.

trout1

These here are brown trout, caught in a stream not far from our house. Brown trout have these lovely, bright-red spots on their skin, which I find really beautiful.

trout3

To grill them, you sprinkle the inside with salt and pepper, heat the coals until they are covered with a layer of white ash, oil the grate away from heat, and place the fish on top. A pair of tongs and a spatula will be useful for flipping the fish and removing it from grill.

trout4

Cover the grill with a lid, leaving the holes in the top open, and grill the fish on  both sides, until it looks like this and flakes nicely (and no longer has pink juices inside).

trout5And voilà!

And because I believe that meat should always come with potatoes (or 99% of the time, anyway), I served it with the delectable Mustard-Roasted Wedge Fries from Gourmet via Smitten Kitchen. Note that her recipe says nothing about turning each fry half-way through, at about 20-minute mark, and I found that step to be necessary. Other than that, her version is perfect.

{ 5 comments }

1 Tom Hudgens June 7, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Whole fresh trout, just with salt and pepper and lemon–one of my favorite dishes ever. Don’t you love the cheeks? I love the skin, too. I feel sorry for people who avoid anything with bones–I take a certain satisfaction in navigating around the bones, and they give the flesh extra gelatin and succulence. When either the weather or my mood prevent grilling, broiling the trout yields pretty good results, too.

2 Sofya June 7, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Now Tom, you understand just what I am talking about! I also love picking through the bones – sort of like eating snow crabs or something, makes it all the more delectable to me. I have not tried the cheeks! The cheeks are good? I also get really good results with pan-frying (sauteing?) trout in butter for my indoor option – I get to drench it in flour then, and that adds extra crispiness to the skin.

Our next goal is bluegills. I had them once up north (when I caught them), and I loved scaling and cleaning and eating them so very fresh. But there are plenty of them here too, we just weren’t into fishing as much before. There’s a lake very close to our house, and you can supposedly catch them right off the shore, and I was told this time of year is good.

One of my relatives was talking about catching carp that you can get in the Mississipi, but that would be a big project. But then they are huge to eat, it’s probably like shooting a (small) deer. I remember, from home, carp being great pan-fried and also made into a soup (all those nice bones for the stock). I love fish soup.

3 Brian June 9, 2010 at 5:23 am

Ahhhhhhhhhh! So fresh and so delicious! These pictures are wonderful and make me anxious for my next CSF pick up (next week is a whole fish). It’s only 7:30 in the morning, but I want this right now!

4 Sofya June 9, 2010 at 8:31 am

It’s nice to live on a sea shore (ocean, right?)! I used to live on a sea shore back in Azerbaijan.

5 Anna June 12, 2010 at 11:34 pm

You have no idea how much I now wish I had a real grill. Though, the silly people at my local fire department prohibit it. :( (I’m in a multi-story condo.) And yeah, fresh fish is awesome. Growing up in Tashkent, a doubly-landlocked country, our only variety of fish was fried. LOL.

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