When my husband went on an Alaskan fishing trip in 2019, he brought home trout as well as the expected salmon. I really had to think about what to do with the trout.
I’ve fished for trout often over the years in Utah and Colorado mostly, and my favorite way to prepare it is… at a cabin! I don’t care if I cook it inside on a rickety stove, or outside over a campfire. To me, it’s more of the ambiance of being in the mountains by a creek that makes just-caught trout so good.
My mother taught me how to fish. Sometimes, we didn’t plan on fishing, but we’d walk along a river and Mom would invariably find leftover line and a hook, then make disparaging remarks about the fishermen who left the mess. Then she’d dig up some kind of worm covered in pebbles, and voila. Trout dinner.
This is a picture from the last time my mother and I fished together in Utah, back when she was 70.
I contemplated what to do with this Alaskan trout, called Dolly Varden, and decided to smoke it. My immediate thought for a resourse was Hank Shaw, whose blog is Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. Mr. Shaw is also the author of Buck Buck Moose, Duck Duck Goose, Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail, and Hunt, Gather, Cook, all of which have won awards.
This trout weighed 1 pound and 3 ounces and measured 12″ without its head.
Hank Shaw recommends drying the fish in a cool place overnight, which creates a sticky surface on the fish called a pellicle. This helps the smoke adhere to the fish. So I dried the trout overnight on a rack in the refrigerator, using a couple of toothpicks to hold the fish open. The next day I brought the fish close to room temperature before smoking.
I used alder wood chips, placed the trout on the rack, started the smoker over fairly high heat to get the wood smoking, then turned down the heat and let the smoke happen.
Thirty minutes worked perfectly. According to Mr. Shaw, the trout’s internal temperature should read between 175 and 200 degrees F, and mine was exactly at 175.
Let the trout cool slightly then remove the skin gently, and pull out the backbone.
The smoked trout is cooked, smokey, and tender. Perfection.
Break up the pieces of trout, removing any stray bones. Cover lightly with foil to keep the fish warm and proceed with the salad recipe.
Warm Smoked Trout Salad
2 hefty servings or 4 first course servings
6 fingerling potatoes, halved
1 can great northern white beans
2 hard-boiled eggs, halved
Smoked trout, about 1 pound
French vinaigrette consisting of equal parts olive oil and a mild vinegar, chopped fresh garlic, Dijon mustard, and salt.
Grilled bread, for serving
Cook the potatoes until tender, then place them in a bowl with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toss gently.
Drain the beans well then add to the potatoes and toss gently. Allow the hot potatoes to warm the beans, then place them in a serving dish.
Add the hard-boiled eggs, and then top the salad with the warm trout.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley and add the vinaigrette to taste.
Serve grilled bread on the side.
There are so many variations possible with this salad.
You could cover the platter in butter lettuce leaves first, and include fresh tomatoes or steamed green beans or even beets.
This salad is very mild in flavor, created to let the smoked trout shine. If you want a flavor pop, add chives or parsley to the vinaigrette.
Although not quite the same, high-quality smoked trout can be purchased on Amazon. I’ve used the one shown below left for smoked trout and shrimp paté.
I highly recommend the Cameron stove-top smoker. It works especially well with fish.
Here is the smoked trout recipe from Hank Shaw’s website; he uses a Traeger grill.