Sunday, July 5, 2009

Smoked Trout and Pasta

The latest Cooking Light issue had a feature on trout with a recipe for smoked trout. I'd never smoked fish before but had been wanting to try, so made the trip to Central Market and got two very nice rainbows.

The brine was 3 cups boiling water, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, 3 sprigs fresh thyme, and 2 orange rind strips. Let the brine cool and marinate the trout in the refrigerator over night. (I thought this brine didn't have a good sweet/salty balance, so next time I'd start with less salt and add till it tasted more balanced).

The next day I used my Brinkman Smoker-Grill, which is a charcoal model that you use with a water pan. The water pan keeps the meat moist and the temp down, so you get a slower cook. I used real charcoal, not briquettes, as the real stuff burns cooler. For the smoke I used mesquite chips, being a good Texan, but I think I'd use a sweeter wood next time, like apple or cherry. All available at the local HEB.
The recipe called for smoking on a gas grill, off the heated side, for 15 minutes. I thought that sounded too quick for my grill and estimated 30 to 45 minutes would do it, even though some recipes called for up to four hours! I checked every so often in 10-15 minute intervals, and pulled them off at 40 minutes. Here they are:

I let them cool while I got ready for the pasta. I'd done some searching and found an intriguing , simple recipe at the Cook Almost Anything Once blog.

Cook one large onion, finely chopped, in olive oil (recipe calls for butter, too, but it's off our diet), over low heat, till the onion turns translucent. I used organic purple onion we got at the Pearl Brewery Farmer's Market a couple of weeks back. I love the sweetness of purple onion and thought the tinge of red would look good against the color of the trout.
As it was cooking, I started the pasta (I used penne), coarsley flaked the trout (reserved 1/2 of one as it was only two of us), then quartered cherry tomatos from our garden. When the pasta was almost done, I tossed a couple of handfuls of frozen peas in the boiling water. While waiting for the water to return to a boil, I tossed in the trout, the tomatos and a couple of handfuls of arugula. By then the pasta and peas were ready, drained them and added them to the dish.

We also made a very nice strawberry-basil sorbet we found in Cooking Light, and adapted. Boil one cup sugar and one cup water till sugar dissolves, and cool. Slice two pounds of fresh strawberries, and blend in two batches with half the syrup mixture in each batch. (Can be made ahead at this point, and kept in the refrigerator). When ready to put in your sorbet maker, add a cup, more or less of fresh basil and a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice. Mix in the sorbet maker till firm. I forgot to take a photo but it looked as good as it tasted!
FOOTNOTE: (As my theology prof in seminary always said, "the interesting stuff is in the footnotes". The best smoked fish I've ever tasted in my life came from Katy's Smokehouse in Trinidad, California. Try the smoked albacore-- Heaven!!! And eat it in the redwood forests of northern California---the highest level of heaven could not be as good.

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