Fancy fish: About the snout of the trout
I hate fish. Well, maybe hatred is too strong a choice of words. And maybe it’s also not quite accurate: I hate badly done fish. And yet I always end up ordering some, hoping to be, just this one time, positively surprised. But I never am. Never. One might think that after dozens of strange sea-food pizzas and an equal share of bland, dull and utterly uninspired pieces of fishy fish I would finally come to my senses and just stop ordering them all together. (Much like my boyfriend has been commanding me to do for the better part of the last two years, as he just cannot stand my constant post-restaurant-nagging). However, I don’t and I would like to believe that it is hope, optimism or some kind of misguided faith in a culinary messiah that are driving me (I don’t want to suggest, by the way, that your faith in your kind of messiah, if you choose to have it, was misguided – all the power to you), but really it seems more like a culinary chastisement. But every now and then, I come across this beautifully crafted and divinely delicious piece of fish that is worth all the trouble and anger. And if any fish was ever able to right all the wrongs, it would be the soft, delicate and subtle trout. And if any recipe was ever to do justice to the majestic trout it would be my oven-baked trout with earthy beetroot, potatoes and an airy crème fraîche dill sauce.
I have been wanting to buy a nice fish at our local fish-market for the last one and a half years now, ever since I moved to Groningen in fact. But I never have. Not once. Until now. So there I was, walking up and down the booths, looking at boxes and buckets full of fish. All different. All beautiful and all sort of affordable. Originally I planned on buying a nice mackerel, getting my hands on some golden beetroots and to then head home straight away. But straight aways never happen in real life. In real life you realize that your oven is no-where near big enough to actually host a mackerel (in my defense, in my imagination I had pictured a slightly smaller mackerel – how could I have possibly pre-imagined the fact that our local fishmonger always had and always will have just one type of mackerel, the big ones. After all, this is not minority report). So there I was. Real life was very unfair, much less fair than I had imagined it to be, and I still had a decision to make. The red-cheeked fishmonger at whose fish I had been staring for the last couple of minutes reminded me that this was a marketplace and not a zoo by coughing friendly and asked me if he could help me to anything. Startled and a bit surprised by the sudden disruption of my inner game of oven-mackerel-tetris, I mumbled one of the few things that I am capable of uttering in dutch: “Ne, ik wil alleen even kijken.” (which translates roughly to – No, thank you, I’m just having a look.) and awkwardly walked away.
To distract myself from my oven-space problem I approached the best greengrocer in town, who is not only able to provide you with the craziest things you might crave and is conveniently located a few steps from the fishmonger’s booths, but also happens to be organic. Tripple win. I like the sound of brown paper bags being filled with nuts or apples. The friendly chit-chatting of half-fingergloved grocers. And the smell of muddy carrots and intensively yellow lemons. But today seemed not to be my day. Today was not the day of Ole. Beetroots? Yes! Golden? Possibly. The girl who had just bagged my small fennel knew that just this morning they did receive some golden beets. Unfortunately she could not manage to find them. But the Georgia variety would be nice too, she said. I believed her.
Now that I had sort of satisfactorily solved my beet-problem I had to approach a much bigger issue. Would I risk slamming an oversized mackerel in my tiny oven? My initial keenness with the slightly fat and decidedly ugly mackerel was a bit of a food-fashion thing. I had seen both Nigella Lawson and Nigel Slater acting all crazy about this fish, so when I decided to go mackerel I had not really considered any other option. But which options where there? And then I saw her. Trudy. Trudy Trout.
I did not mind her being half the size but twice the price of a mackerel. Or the fact that the fishmonger dropped her on the slimy ground when he tried to bag her and then tried to act all unsuspicious when he disappeared behind his booth to wash the fish. I just knew that this majestic fish was the right for me.
Happily I headed home. Excited for my feast. Rinsed her under cold water and began to scale the fish (Something my heavy-handed fishmonger had not done, but which you can easily do yourself by just scraping against the scales using the blunt side of a knife). Despite all my concern, I was not disappointed. Not one bit. And seldom have I been this proud of myself. And you will be too, once you give it a try.
The beetroot takes longest, so pop them in first, add the trout after about 20 minutes and start cooking the potatoes about 15 minutes before serving.
potatoes with crème frâiche sauce:
Potatos Crème Frâiche Salt Pepper Dill Shallot Lemon
- Boil water for the potatoes, salt a bit and cook them – not much of magic happening here.
- Chop the shallot finely
- Add to a bowl with crème frâiche.
- Add salt and pepper to the taste.
- Chop some dill finely and add to the bowl.
- Add a bit of lemon juice and a bit of water to thin down the sauce.
This might not sound like much, but believe me, it is especially if you have it with some beetroot and some fish.
Slightly dressed beetroot:
Beetroot Lemon juice Dill Shallot Pepper Salt Garlic Mustard Honey
- Wash the beetroot, but don’t hurt its skin or else it will bleed immediately, I like having two to three per medium-sized per hungry person.
- Wrap each beet in aluminate foil, make sure to cover it all and put in an oven at 200°C for about 50 minutes to an hour. They don’t need any further attention.
- Take one part lemon juice, two parts oil. I usually have about two table spoons of juice for one part, so four of the oil. Add some about half a teaspoon of mustard and a teaspoon of honey into a glass with a lid and shake. Add About half a clove of garlic garlic, half a small shallot and about a tablespoon dill. Add pepper and salt to the taste. Adjust all the ingredients until they are after your liking.
- After the beet is done take it out of the oven, peel it using a spoon (watch out, beetroot juice will taint your clothes and cannot be washed out) and cut it in discs. Cover with a bit of the dressing.
Oven baked trout
Fennel Onion Garlic Dill Salt Pepper Olive oil Trout
- Rinse the trout. Descale if necessary by simply running the blunt side of a knife against the scales.
- Slice the fennel and onion into bits, it is just for the stuffing and neatness is not required. For one medium-sized trout a small fennel and a medium-sized onion will do.
- Salt and pepper the trout inside and outside, fill with half the fennel, onion, two sprigs of dill.
- Take a large sheet of aluminate foil, make a bed of the remaining fennel, onion and yet another two springs of dill on the sheet and place the trout on top.
- Make a nice sealed bag for the trout by simply putting together the two long sides of the sheet over the trout and then fold together the long edges twice. Do the same with the short ends. Put in an oven at about 200°C for as long as it takes. I know that this is something shitty to say, but it really depends on your oven and the trout, check after about half an hour.
- Open the bag after said half hour and cover the trout lightly with olive oil, put under a grill for about ten minutes to give the skin a bit of a roast.
Serve with the sauce, the beets and potatoes – and a slice of lemon.