So, this post was going to be later this weekend, and about something else entirely; but then, I went to the grocery store and they had whole, fresh trout on sale. I’m kind of a spur of the moment cook, so just like that I changed my mind. The decision to share this little roasted fish adventure occurred as I started remembering all the people who have expressed to me a certain sense of
paralyzing fear trepidation at the idea of cooking fish. They tell me it seems “complicated,” or that they’re afraid of messing it up. I can understand that. When faced with the sight of this little guy looking up at you from behind the glass, it can be a bit discombobulating.
You imagine that because it’s THE WHOLE FISH (zomg!) that there’s some special skill needed to turn it into dinner. Not so, my friends. Not so. In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite. Most fish takes barely any effort at all to become something not only delicious, but also pretty damn impressive looking on a plate. Let me show you…
Trout is just about my favourite fish ever to eat. It’s flavourful, and super low maintenance, as I shall now demonstrate.
Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. In addition to Mr. Trout, you’ll need:
– aluminum foil
– a baking pan or cookie sheet
– olive oil
– salt and pepper
– a lemon
– a spatula or fish spatula or the ability to flip a whole roasted fish onto a plate in one move (actually easier than it sounds)
Then, get yourself a piece of aluminum foil about two feet long and lay it in a baking pan.
I drizzled a little bit of olive oil on the foil and smeared it around a little bit. I used my (clean, of course) fingers, but if you don’t like to get stuff on your hands just use a pastry brush, or swirl the pan around until the olive oil is covering approximately a fish sized bit of real estate. Then, lay the fish down in the pan.
You might notice that this fish is cut open along the bottom, but he still has his little fins and his tail (oh yeah, and his head). I’m not squeamish about any of those things, but if you are you have some options:
1) you can ask your fish guy to trim off some of that stuff. Most of them are happy to do that for you, and some will even do it without rolling their eyes. Ignore the ones who do that. They’re just being a judgeypants and you’re allowed to have your fish however you want it.
2) you can trim it up yourself. A good pair of kitchen shears will take care of the fins and the tail, and a sharp chef’s knife or a solid (like you mean it!) thwack with a meat cleaver will decapitate Mr. Trout quite handily.
I happen to like the way the whole fish looks in presentation, so I let him keep his dignity right up to the moment I start picking him apart and devouring him.
Whole fish also has bones. Tiny ones. If the bones are an issue for you, it’s easier to de-bone a fish like this after it’s cooked. The flesh will pull away from the bones and the spine in one or two pieces on each side, and all those little pin bones should come out pretty easily. If you’re going to serve the fish bone-free, just make sure you do your de-boning work under good lighting because some of them can be almost invisible.
(“de-boning” sounds naughty and because i’m 12 years old on the inside, makes me giggle a lot.)
Let’s carry on…
Just as with any other protein, seasoning is super important. At the minimum, you’ll want to season inside and outside with salt and pepper. If you want to get fancy and use herbs (fresh or dried) or your favourite seasoning blend, go for it! I used sea salt and a citrus pepper blend from Savory Spice Shop here in Denver:
A healthy sprinkle (again, don’t forget to season the inside, too!) of this stuff and the sea salt, and a couple of lemon slices stuffed inside, and we’re off to the races!
All we need to do now is drizzle the whole thing with a little more olive oil, squeeze some lemon juice over it, wrap it up, and slide it into the oven.
When you wrap the foil, you want to keep it loose. I usually bring the two long sides together, fold over (not very neatly) once or twice, roll up the sides (also, not with any precision in the least), and then scrunch down the top a little more. Here’s what mine looks like all wrapped up. You can be neater if you need to, but as long as it’s got some room to breathe in there you’re good to go.
Then, slide it into the oven. I let it roast all wrapped up like that for about 10-12 minutes, then I unwrap it a little bit to expose most of the fish body and slide it back in for about another 20 minutes so it gets a little more of that browned roasty look.
Annnnnd… here you go!
As you can see, the olive oil and the lemon juice combine with the liquid that comes out of the fish to form a kind of sauce. It’s delicious. Don’t throw it away. I recommend drizzling it over the fish when you serve it.
I forgot to run the dish washer so I didn’t have a clean spatula. I just used a fork to make sure nothing was sticking on the bottom, and then slid the whole thing onto my plate. I served it with a kale salad dressed with some cherry tomatoes and a lemon juice-olive oil-sea salt concoction.
This fish was about 8 ounces prior to cooking… and it yielded about 4.5 ounces of moist, delicious, flavourful fish flesh.
So, seriously, not a lot of work at all, right? You can do this, right? I have faith in you.
By the way, this isn’t the only whole fish that can be cooked using this method. A 5-6 lb salmon cooked this way for about 45 minutes will serve 14 people with regular appetites, or 10 of the greedy kind. If you really want to wow your dinner guests, come to the table bearing a whole, roasted salmon surrounded by some equally fabulous roasted baby potatoes, on a big ole platter. Can you say high drama? They never need to know how very little work it was.