Last Thursday a friend called to tell me she and her husband, along with her daughter from Fort Worth, were coming to Bemidji to see the play (The Odd Couple) at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse. She wondered if they could stop by my house before having a pre-theater dinner downtown.
They arrived just in time for happy hour. They brought the wine. And a bag of trout they had caught and cleaned that day.
I’ve never eaten trout let alone prepared it. But before my friends headed off for dinner, I had taken notes with very specific directives on how to prepare the trout on the grill. I wouldn’t need many ingredients, just lots of chopped onions and some dill. And a few slices of bacon.
I was planning to prepare the trout the next day for dinner. It was the same day my copy of Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater, by Matthew Amster-Burton, arrived. Believe it or not, I flipped open the book and the page that I turned to had a recipe for preparing trout. No kidding! Now that’s definitely a meal for an adventurous child. This recipe included a chopped fennel bulb, something my friends did not use when they prepared trout.
About 45 minutes before serving a trout dinner, I pulled the fish out of the refrigerator. There were three in the bag. Heads were removed and the guts had been cleaned out.
For these three trout, I chopped up 1 very large onion and 1 small fennel bulb and sauteed them until crisp-tender. I stirred in a generous amount of dried dill weed. I love the fresh taste of dill.
We generously stuffed the onion mixture into each trout.
I poked lots of holes into a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, as my friends directed me to do. Trout is a rich, fatty fish, similar to salmon, but lighter with a more delicate flavor. Fat from the fish could drip through the foil as it cooked.
I preheated our gas grill with all burners turned on high heat. Once the grill was hot, I turned all the burners to medium, put the holey foil on the grill rack and on went the trout.
Just as instructed, I laid a piece of bacon over each trout.
The trout cooked over medium heat on a closed grill for a little more than 30 minutes. I was told it was better to overcook the trout than to undercook. That reminded me of the roast pork my mom used to make years ago. Back then, pork was much fattier than it is today. She would roast it at a low temperature in the oven for hours. It would be well-done and still moist and flavorful, thanks to all that fat. This fatty trout could handle overcooking without losing its flaky texture and delicate succulence.
When the skin was wrinkled and the meat turned to a light ivory-pink, the fish was done.
My daughter-in-law and I split the largest trout. The guys each had a whole fish. The skin was easy to peel right off of the trout. The meat was moist. The stuffing was aromatic and delicious. It was a new taste experience for all of us. It was a trout surprise.
You’re probably wondering where the trout came from. Can’t tell you. I was sworn to secrecy. Just like morel foragers, Minnesota trout fishermen don’t like to share details about where they catch the fish. But it’s definitely worth the hunt.