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.

Here is how you fillet a trout. It’s not easy because the trout flesh is so delicate. You’ll need:

1. Nimble fingers

2. A very sharp knife

3. Kitchen scissors

4. Tweezers

5. Nimble fingers

Trim the little fins off.

It should be gutted first by the way. If it’s not you start there. Scrape any rogue scales off with the tip of the knife as well. Then you can give it a rinse inside and out.

Slice diagonally at the tail just to the bone.

Then slice along the backbone on one side.

Then make the same diagonal cut up to the bone on the same side.

Then, starting from the tail, gently cut it back off of the spine.

Til you reach the top. Your fillet should pop right off.

Then, you can gently start at the bottom of the spine and take it off to release your other fillet.

Then cut the belly bones off as well as the belly flap.

Don’t you like my technical terms?

Now for these pesky pin bones. You can almost pull them out with your fingers, but a tweezer or pliers works well too.

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.

Then you get your smoker going. Mine is a handy stove top one I got from amazon. You can check it out under “My Favorite Things” on the right there.

After 7 minutes you flip it and close the lid for 7 minutes more.

Lay the fillets on a cutting board…

And the skin will peel right off!

Set them aside while you make the vinaigrette.

For the vinaigrette all you need are a few things, namely an onion, some wine and/or port, vinegar and olive oil. A lemon helps too.

Dice the onion as finely as possible. Horizontally…

Then vertically…

Until you have a very fine dice.

Pour red wine… and some port if you have it…

Let it simmer, reduce, and soften…

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?

“Hot Smoked Trout”

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 2 servings

“Hot Smoked Trout”


  • 1 brook trout
  • Olive oil
  • Salt


  1. Fillet the trout carefully so as not to damage the flesh. Remove the pin bones from each fillet. (For a visual explanation on how to do this, look at the accompanying photo set)
  2. Set up your smoker and lay the two fillets skin side down on the grill. Cover and smoke for 7 minutes. Remove the lid and flip the fillet over flesh side down and smoke it for 7 minutes more.
  3. Lay the fillets carefully on a cutting board flesh side down. The skin will peel off easily if you start from one end and peel it back to the other. This will be your presentation side.
  4. Drizzle this side with olive oil and salt and garnish with the pickled onion vinaigrette.

“Pickled Onion Vinaigrette”

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 1 cup

“Pickled Onion Vinaigrette”


  • 1 medium onion, minced or finely diced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon port (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (if not using port and raspberry vinegar)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Lemon juice to taste


  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan (reserve the olive oil and lemon juice for later use) simmer and reduce until ingredients are tender.
  2. Remove from heat and whisk in olive oil and a drop of lemon juice.

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