When I was a child growing up in the Hudson Valley, I used to sit on a rock by the side of our creek, push a fat worm onto a hook, and catch my trout. Then I would fry it in a skillet and eat it for breakfast. It was a normal pattern in my eight year life that seemed as natural as breathing, or throwing skipping rocks. Then, as I got older, the current of life pushed me toward other things and catching my trout for breakfast was no longer a daily pursuit. Years later, fully immersed in the fast-paced life of New York City, I sat down to eat at Gramercy Tavern. The head chef began sending me bits of food to taste, as I contemplated taking a job there, and in one watershed moment my decision was made. He placed a piece of smoked trout before me, drizzled with pickled onions and kohlrabi puree. This was quite possibly the best thing I’d ever tasted. The texture was soft and creamy, the smoke was subtle and oaky, the pickles were tangy and sweet.
It is possible that what I was tasting was a memory—of those days where life simply consisted of catching my trout for breakfast and skipping rocks. But it’s a memory worth reliving many times over, because it tastes so good.
The thing to remember about trout is that the flesh is very delicate and so filleting it takes some nimble fingers. Tweezers also come in handy to help remove all of the pin bones. What is brilliant about this hot smoked trout, is how quickly it smokes and how good the result is. Seven minutes on each side, in my stove top smoker and I recreated something just as good as you’ll find in a four star restaurant. I used Alder wood chips because it is mild and doesn’t overwhelm the flavor of the trout. But any similar wood will do. The pickled onions are a tangy crunchy dressing, which is a nice paring with the soft mild trout.
1. Nimble fingers
2. A very sharp knife
3. Kitchen scissors
5. Nimble fingers
Slice diagonally at the tail just to the bone.
Don’t you like my technical terms?
This requires patience, but it’s worth it. Feel along the line as you go with your fingertips to make sure you haven’t missed one.
And the skin will peel right off!
Set them aside while you make the vinaigrette.
Pour red wine… and some port if you have it…
And finish with a little olive oil and lemon juice and some salt.
Is there a particular fish or game that incites those childhood memories in you?