Food writer and teacher Christine Rudalevige is a mother of two navigating a family move from agriculturally rich central Pennsylvania to coastal Maine. Eating locally now means more fish on the dinner table. In this biweekly column, she explores family-friendly ways to enjoy sustainable seafood.
This week, Christine feasts on smoked trout morning, noon, and night.
Considering Smoked Trout
I have a theory about eating smoked trout that is kind of like voting for the Chicago political machine in the early 1900s: Do it early and often.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch has given U.S.-farmed trout the green light as a sustainable fish for all regions of the country. Most of the farmed trout in the U.S. is raised in Idaho. Production numbers aside, there are a number of smaller, regional suppliers that help with the "local" part of the eating equation. Here in Pennsylvania, we’ve got Limestone Springs. This particular aquaculture outfit operates a preserve where you can go and catch your own fish. But since I seemed to have misplaced my hip waders, I must continue to buy tickets to local food dinners sponsored by Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture and Slow Food Harrisburg. We all get gussied up for those events. I get to wear the nice heels and the trout gets outfitted with fresh herbs.
You can raise the sustainability quotient of farmed trout by smoking it. Whether you brine and smoke it yourself or you buy it that way, smoking extends the shelf life of this fresh water fish, making it a convenient fridge staple. Smoking trout also infuses the otherwise mild protein with a lot of flavor, so the average eater consumes less to the point of satisfaction -- which in my mind is one of the secrets to sustainable eating.
"This is a rare treat if you can come by it,” wrote the venerable James Beard in New Fish Cookery. He suggests you simply skin it (a task that requires a gentle tug, not a knife), cut it into long fillets, and serve with lemon "for a truly distinctive hors d'oeuvre."
My hubris is not deep-seeded enough to challenge Mr. Beard on this preparation -- or any other for that matter. But I would argue that given the increase in availability of this treat since the time he wrote that book, we can afford to tart it up with a bit more than a straight lemon squeeze.
In fact, I could sustain eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The smoked trout I prefer comes from Ducktrap River, an operation in Belfast, Maine, that uses traceable, antibiotic-free trout raised without added growth hormones. This one also carries the Whole Foods "Responsibly Farmed" tag, which means that -- in addition to being drug-free -- this trout was farmed in systems that mimic a rushing stream.
In this imaginary trout-filled day, I’d start with Sweet Potato and Smoked Trout Hash topped with a little dilled Greek yogurt. At noon, I’d pull out the KitchenAid and whiz it up with some mascarpone, horseradish, cream, lemon zest and black pepper for a makeshift rillettes, grab a baguette, some cornichons, and a blanket, and find the nearest tree for an easy picnic lunch.
But I’d top off the day -- still consuming what amounts to just a single four-ounce fillet per person per meal -- with this elegantly simple Asian Smoked Trout Noodle Bowl.
Yes, Mr. Beard, you were certainly right about smoked trout being a treat. Lucky for me, it’s not a rare one.
Asian Smoked Trout Noodle Bowl
I’ve adapted this recipe from one that I entered in FOOD52’s Best Salmon Recipe contest about two years ago. That said, my original inspiration for the recipe came from a smoked trout, soba noodle, and pea shoot appetizer I had at Two Fat Ladies in Glasgow. The Scots are certainly well known for their salmon, but their trout attracts both fisherman and eaters from around the globe.
16 shiitake mushrooms caps, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon canola oil
8 ounces Soba buckwheat noodles
Juice of half a lemon
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine)
2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
2 teaspoons turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2/3 cup warm water (You want this to be somewhat thin as it’s more of a broth than a dressing.)
4 baby bok choy, sliced
1/2 pound snow peas, stringed and blanched
1 4-ounce smoked trout fillet
Like this post? See Christine's previous topic: Tarting up Tilapia.
Photos by Christine Rudalevige.
Christine Rudalevige is a food writer and mother of two who always fits in three square meals a day -- which occasionally means making up for a skipped breakfast with an ample late-night refrigerator raid.