Saturday, July 3, 2010

Smoked Trout

     Ruby and I went to the pond in the field behind our house the other day to picnic and do a little fly fishing.  I caught a personal record: 16 fish!  Most were small brook trout averaging 5-6 inches, but two were worth keeping.  I used a bead-head prince nymph and dry black fly to catch them all, yet the way they were striking, I'm sure almost anything would have worked well.  The fish were actually jumping out of the water to catch small mayflies and damsel flies on the hatch.  I am pretty sure the fish in this pond are stocked seasonally because it is part of the Veterans Home of Wyoming public use land.

   The two rainbow trout that I kept were about eight inches each.  Beautifully colored and good fighters on the line, rainbows make fishing very entertaining.  Usually, I enjoy trout simply pan-seared with a slice of lemon and onion, crushed clove of garlic, and a sprig of thyme stuffed into the chest cavity.  Butcher's twine wrapped two or three times around the body keeps everything from falling out when flipping the fish.  However, this time I decided to hot-smoke the trout over some cedar.  Hot smoking is used to cook the flesh while cold smoking adds a smoke-flavored character without raising the temperature.  In this application, the fish is fully cooked in a smoke filled chamber preserving the meat for longer than normal.  Bacteria that spoils meat cannot grow easily on a smoked product.

Soaking the wood chips in water keeps the wood from burning up too quickly.  However, large chunks of dry wood can be used to bring the temperature of the smoker up to above 275°F.  I started a fire with real oak charcoal on one side of the barbeque, then added my chunked cedar once the coals were smoldering.  The fish was seasoned with oil, salt and pepper and placed on a sizzle platter on the other side of the grill.  Keeping the fish away from the fire provides a slow-cooking, indirect heat.  Next, a foil lid was placed on top of the smoker with one side opened (the side with the fish) to draw the smoke over the product and allow it to escape to prevent stifling. Unfortunately, my barbeque does not have a lid or I would just use that with the vent placed above the product. The fish smoked for about 30 minutes on each side.  I needed to add more wood half-way through the smoking process to keep the temperature up.  The fish had plenty of smokiness but still needed about 20 minutes in the oven to cook through entirely. 
     Smoked trout is delicious hot, but I decided to serve it as a salad.  To cut the smoke with a spicy textural contrast, I added some sliced French breakfast radishes from our garden, baby arugula, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Some crunchy rye toast completed the dish thanks to Ruby's fabulous bread baking abilities.  Fried capers would have been nice, but I did not have any on hand and sometimes it's hard to wait for delicious.

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