When it comes to new culinary ideas, some are worth saving. I started mentally running through this idea a few weeks ago, but I figured it best to premiere it on a special occasion. Luckily, Dani is never far from doing something worth celebrating–she got an awesome offer from an architecture firm, and is that much closer to reaching her dream career. Perfect timing.
Why trout? Well, I’ve loved fishing ever since my first trip in upstate New York as a six-year old, and I’ll always be haunted by the trout that jumped off of the hook *right* before I landed it. I’ve been getting payback ever since. Even now, I’m thinking about going fishing somewhere in the mountains, and catching my own.
While I love the idea of catching my own trout, and smoking them over an fire, I managed to track, and land these trout after a long journey through the… the farmer’s market. I added applewood to the gas grill to get the wood fire flavor, and tossed herbs directly onto the hot wood to see if I could enhance the smoke. Smoking is a “hurry up and wait” technique; you have to keep an eye on the flames/smoke without opening the lid and letting out all of the heat and flavor. I let the fish cook in the smoke on low for over an hour, and it was perfect.
The next time I do it, though, I think I’ll brush a little oil onto the skin to encourage it to get crispier. I chose not to remove the skin like the last time I made trout, since it has some of the only fat on the fish. I figured that it would be even more receptive to the smoke flavor infusion than the meat (science!). Also — you see the handful of herbs and wood I used? I was being conservative in case my idea failed… double all of it. Seriously, I may even try adding extra herbs later in the cooking process next time.
I got distracted checking the weather, and some of the herbs caught fire, so I had to extinguish, and discard them. Regardless, the fish took on the flavors of a “campfire” with an interesting hint of herbs, even though it never touched them directly. As a final tip, it may also help to place the meat above the wood and herbs, if possible. This mimics the way actual smoking is done, and helps the smoke rise directly into the meat. The upper rack on the grill I used was a little unstable, though, so I didn’t want to risk the fish falling apart.
Once the fish was done, I turned the heat back up, and roasted the peppers, tomatoes, and garlic in butter, and charred the orange and lemon directly on the grill.
As you’ve probably noticed, I love to *almost* burn things to see how I can manipulate their flavors. In this case, it added some complexity to fruit, and made it a perfect seasoning for the entire meal. In hindsight, they could’ve gone a little longer, but a storm was rolling in, and I decided to pack everything up.
Once inside, I blended the peppers and garlic with the orange/lemon juice, and fresh tarragon. Then, it was finally time to eat.
2 Rainbow Trout, filleted
1 Bell Pepper, sliced thinly
10 Sprigs of Thyme
10 Sprigs of Rosemary
3 Sprigs of Tarragon
3 Cups Couscous
2 Cups Grape Tomatoes, sliced thinly
4 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
1 Guajillo Chili, sliced thinly
1 Orange, halved
2 Lemons, halved
6 Chunks of Applewood
2 Tbs Butter
1 Tbs Cumin
1 Tbs Garlic Powder
1 Tbs Chili Flakes
1 Tsp Turmeric
Salt & Pepper to taste
- Pat trout dry with paper towels, then season generously with salt, garlic powder, and pepper on both sides.
- Soak thyme, and rosemary in a small amount of water for at least thirty minutes prior to grilling. Wrap wood chunks loosely in foil, and puncture in several places. Preheat grill on high.
- Char the citrus fruits directly on the grill, then remove and store until later. Place wood chunks on the hottest part of the grill until it begins to smoke, but not catch fire. Move the wood away from the flames. Place fish on the hottest part of the grill to sear for one minute, then lower the heat. Place wet herbs onto the smoking wood, and close the grill. Continue to cook on low for approximately one hour.
- Check the wood every twenty minutes to be sure it is smoking, but does not catch fire. Remove fish once the skin has browned, and the meat is firm, and fully cooked. Turn the heat back up to high, then place a buttered cast iron pan onto the grill.
- Add bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, guajillo chili, salt and pepper. Stir, and sauté until softened, then (carefully) remove from the grill.
- (Once inside) Heat a small pot on medium, and sauté couscous on medium high in olive oil until fragrant, then add enough boiling water to *just* cover the couscous, season with salt, turmeric, and pepper, then cover until the water is absorbed. Squeeze juice from one of the charred lemons into the pot, and remove it from the heat.
- Combine all roasted peppers, garlic, and tomatoes in a blender. Add remaining charred citrus juice, olive oil, tarragon, cumin, salt, and pepper. Blend until a smooth sauce forms.
- Plate and serve.