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Trout are a species of mainly freshwater fish, although there are some which are salt-water dwellers such as sea trout, and some which have a fin in both waters, such as rainbow trout. These have a slightly nutty, sweet flavour and tender flesh.
Sea trout are brown trout that migrate, and you can tell them apart by their bright pink flesh. These are regarded as a prized fish by anglers and chefs, as they’re thought to be the most flavourful compared with other species of trout.
Brown trout are indigenous to the UK, but the most commonly farmed trout in this country are the rainbow trout which in fact, are native to the US. In a similar way to salmon, farmed trout tastes quite bland compared to ones that live in the wild. Although trout isn’t endangered, certain stocks are under threat, so buying organic farmed trout is the best way forward. The Good Fish Guide advises not to buy sea trout during its breeding season between November and March.
As with all fish, trout should be purchased as fresh as possible. Fresh whole trout should have clear, bright eyes and bright red gills. The older the trout is, the darker the colour of the gills. Fresh trout should also have a firm feel to them.
So, now that you know what to look for when buying trout, let’s get into the fun stuff. If you’re cooking trout whole, it’s best practise to make an incision on the thickest part of the fish on each side to help the heat penetrate and allow for even cooking. To bake a whole trout, simply douse it in olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkle some herbs on top and chuck in a few garlic cloves before wrapping it in foil and sticking it in the oven. This method also works if you’re using the barbecue or the grill.
If you’re cooking trout fillets, make sure that it has been pin-boned (those pesky long, thin needle-like bones that run along the length of a fish). If it hasn’t, the best way to do this is to use a pair of tweezers to grip the end of each bone and draw it out of the fillet. Trout fillets are perfect for pan-frying, steaming, smoking, grilling and poaching. Steaming is a particularly good way of preparing trout as this method brings out the fish’s full flavour and helps retain the moisture. If you’re craving South American food, trout is a great choice for ceviche as its oily flesh and subtle taste pair well with the citrusy marinades.
As mentioned earlier, the flavour of the fish will depend on which species of trout you cook. As sea trout has a distinct flavour, sometimes all you need are simple ingredients so as to not overpower it. Having said that, lemons, limes, tomatoes and capers all pair nicely with trout’s oiliness. Dill is also a delicious herb to serve with trout. Why not try the classic French dish of trout amandine where fried trout is served with a lemon, butter and almond sauce. James Martin recipe Whole Roasted Trout with Sala Verde is also a personal favourite.
If you’re serving trout with meat, try strong, salty flavours like bacon or chorizo. Similarly, salty clams or cockles are great seafood accompaniments.
For freshwater trout, stronger flavours (in particular Japanese flavours) such as wasabi, sesame and shiso work well. As freshwater trout has an earthy flavour, it pairs nicely with similar flavours like potatoes and pulses.
Spices are a fantastic way to add flavour to your trout dishes. Here are some of the best spices and mixes that pair well with trout, and with fish dishes in general. Read more here.