Don't spare the rod

Cynthia
Cynthia Stone
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It’s that season at last. Anglers everywhere are checking out their favourite worm patches, sprucing up their flies and cleaning out the freezer in hopes of scoring some good fish. With the state of our commercial fishery, it might soon be the only option left to us.

I’ll save the doom and gloom for another time, however, because today I’d like to celebrate salmon and trout.

 

Salmon with honey harissa glaze

The balance of heat and sweet in this dish perfectly complements the huge flavour of salmon. As an added bonus, it couldn’t be much simpler — you don’t even need to remove the skin.

If your barbecue is looking at you anxiously from the back deck, then feel free to grill instead of roast.

Harissa is a ground chili blend from Tunisia, but I have found it recently in at least two local grocery stores, sold in small jars.

It’s worth its weight in gold in the kitchen, adding a bright burst of flavour to any number of recipes. If you really can’t be bothered looking, or have looked and just can’t find it, substitute 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. chili powder, 1/2 tsp. each ground cumin and coriander, and 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper.

Restaurants serve 5 or 6 oz. of fish per plate but for this dish I would allow a full 1/2 lb. (8 oz.) because everyone will want seconds.

2 lb. fresh salmon fillet, skin on or off but well scaled

1 tbsp. good quality olive oil

1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup mild-flavoured liquid honey

2 tbsp. harissa

1 tbsp. butter or margarine

Spread olive oil all over both sides of the salmon and sprinkle on the salt and pepper. Line a baking sheet with foil and lay the salmon in the middle, skin side down if it has not been removed.

Bake at 450 F or grill over high heat about 5 minutes. Stir together honey, harissa and butter and microwave a few seconds to melt together. Don’t allow it to boil; you just want it warm. Brush about half the glaze over top of the salmon and bake or grill another 5 minutes, just until fish flakes.

A little undercooked in the middle is a good thing as far as I’m concerned, but cook it to your taste. Brush another spoonful of the glaze on top just before serving and pass any remaining as a condiment.

 

Pan-fried trout

I’ve been told that on several occasions in the past I referenced pan-frying trout disparagingly while offering up a recipe for some Asian glaze or creamy sauce.

Forgive me, because growing up, the only way trout was prepared in our home was dredged in flour and fried brown and crisp, and I don’t remember ever turning my nose up at a panful.

For those of you who were not so lucky in childhood, here’s how it’s done. If you already know how, then this will serve to make your mouth water.

4 pan-sized trout, heads and tails off

1/4 cup flour

1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup diced salt pork (optional)

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving

Dry fish thoroughly, including in the middle, with paper towels. Whisk together flour, salt and pepper. Dredge fish, rubbing the flour into every nook and cranny, inside and out. Set aside for a few minutes.

Fry salt pork over medium heat in a large, heavy pan until rendered and golden brown. Remove scruncheons and set aside to drain.

Add vegetable oil to pan and bring back up to heat. Fry trout until golden brown on one side; flip and cook on the other. You are looking for crispy edges and good colour, and the flour in the body cavity should not look gummy. To test for doneness, insert a knife along the backbone and try and lift up the meat — it should pull away from the bone but still appear moist, not dry. Remove from pan and place on a wire rack for a few minutes — if you put them on a plate they will get soggy.

Serve with lemon wedges and reserved scruncheons.

 

Revigote sauce

If you decide to go perfectly plain and poach your fish — whatever the species — then here’s my version of a classic French sauce that should be in your recipe box.

There’s no cooking, just a little chopping and assembly. The fresh herbs are an absolute must in this recipe but it is special enough to offer company, so it’s well worth the effort.

There is a hot version based on white sauce that is more typically served with hot fish, but this tart and tangy mixture is lighter and fresher tasting, perfect with any hot or cold fish, but equally delicious with grilled meat or vegetables.

This amount will stretch to serve 8 or more.

1/3 cup red onion, minced

1/4 cup sweet gherkin pickles, finely chopped

1 tbsp. drained capers, coarsely chopped if large

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

1 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon leaves

1 tbsp. sherry vinegar (or wine vinegar if you prefer)

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup good quality olive oil

Combine onion, gherkins, capers, garlic, parsley and tarragon. Whisk together sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper and whisk in the olive oil briskly to form an emulsion. Stir both mixtures together and allow to sit at room temperature about 30 minutes. Refrigerate after that but bring back to room temperature before serving.

 

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.

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