Moravian Trout Tartare and Rillettes

Posted by Florian in Czech Food, Fishing, Seafood, tagged with , , , , , , , ,

True story: A couple weekends ago, I went fishing in rural Moravia. I caught a trout, picked up a bottle of Riesling from a nearby vineyard, came up with this recipe, inspired by local specialties, and got back home on Sunday night. Still, no jet lag, and no need to break the bank — I wasn’t in the Moravian region of the Czech Republic. The Moravia I’m talking about is in Upstate New York, at the southern tip of Owasco Lake.

Moravian Trout Rillettes and Tartare

To give more substance to my tongue-in-cheek story, I’m backing it up with a recipe inspired by Czech Cuisine: A Modern Approach. Unfortunately, that book isn’t nearly as modern as it claims to be, for modernity takes more than a picture of a computer keyboard on the dust jacket. Many recipes look like they were dug out from the 1999 archives, sometimes with misguided experiments (the smoked trout parfait, the asparagus charlotte). Others are just traditional Czech dishes without even a facelift (the plum dumplings with poppy seeds), and a few sound like blatant jokes (the mesclun salad with wild garlic and croutons, looking exactly as you’d expect it from your corner deli). The recipe that drew my attention was a smoked trout terrine with roasted peppers and spring watercress sauce. On paper, it sounds nice enough, if not exactly hip. In practice, the terrine is a gelatine-heavy creation with very little trout, served with a cucumber and smoked trout “gnocchi” that definitely looks more like a tartare to me, and the dish is finished with a watercress sauce reminiscent of a pesto. Maybe its chef, Radek Šubrt, is such a purist that he refuses to call something made with hot-smoked fish a tartare? (Check out his web site to learn more about his life, his work, and his philosophy about all things gnocchi.)

My recipe may not be revolutionary, but it brings us a bit closer to the present decade. I kept the traditional Czech flavors of the original: trout, dill, cucumber, peppers. But I use two to three times as much trout. The terrine is replaced with rillettes, still smoked, and the “gnocchi” is now a bona fide tartare of raw trout. I know I’ve already posted recipes for trout rillettes (here) and tartare (here), but today’s versions are different — and better-looking!

The original watercress sauce, used to dot the plate, is nixed in favor of a couple of fluid gels inspired by the ones found in Heston Blumenthal’s Historic Heston. One is an onion gel, and the second is a Riesling gel. To make them, you’ll need gellan F, which you can buy from Modernist Pantry. The proportions for both gels make way over 4 servings, but it’s hard to scale them down, so you’ll just have to decorate all your dinner plates with pretty onion and Riesling dots for a week. As for the choice of wine, a semi-dry Riesling that I purchased at Domaine Lesseure, a few Finger Lakes over from Owasco, is perfect for the job. Winemaker Sébastien Leseurre, who advocates natural fermentation, explained to me that the main difference between his dry and semi-dry Rieslings is that the semi-dry is left on the vines for 5 days longer. This, I believe, makes it quite similar to the late harvest (pozdní sběr) Rieslings found in Czech Republic, which are not really late harvest in the commonly understood “dessert wine” sense, but just a bit sweeter than dry table wine. Because life is already sweet enough in Moravia.

Moravian Trout Rillettes and Tartare

Riesling fluid gel
Yields way over 4 servings

30 g sugar
220 g semi-dry Riesling
1.8 g gellan F
5 g lemon juice

  • In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the sugar and 200 g of the Riesling to 95 C / 200 F, stirring regularly, and simmer at that temperature for about 30 seconds.
  • Transfer to a blender. While blending on low speed, add the gellan, then process on medium speed for 1 minute. Transfer to a plastic container, and let cool in a bath of ice water until the mixture has solidified and cooled completely.
  • Return to the blender, and add the remaining Riesling and the lemon juice. Blend for 1 minute on medium speed, stopping to scrape the sides of the jar once or twice.
  • Transfer the gel to a squeeze bottle, and refrigerate.

Onion fluid gel
Yields way over 4 servings

125 g peeled white onion, finely sliced
15 g butter
120 g milk
50 g heavy cream
75 g chicken stock
0.5 g salt
1.3 g gellan F

  • In a saucepan over medium heat, sweat the onions in the butter until soft.
  • Add 100 g of the milk, then the heavy cream, chicken stock, and salt, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Partially blitz the onion mixture with a hand blender, and pass through a chinois.
  • Weigh 200 g of the mixture, return to the saucepan, and bring to 95 C / 200 F.
  • Transfer to a blender. While blending on low speed, add the gellan, then process on medium speed for 1 minute. Transfer to a plastic container, and let cool in a bath of ice water until the mixture has solidified and cooled completely.
  • Return to the blender, and add the remaining milk. Blend for 1 minute on medium speed, stopping to scrape the sides of the jar once or twice.
  • Transfer the gel to a squeeze bottle, and refrigerate.

Moravian Trout Rillettes and Tartare

Trout and cucumber tartare
Yields 4 servings

40 g peeled, seeded cucumber
230 g cleaned [skinned, boned] trout fillet
20 g crème fraîche
20 g onion fluid gel
6 g lemon juice
1.5 g dill, finely chopped
salt
black pepper, ground

  • Cut the cucumber into a brunoise, and let rest on paper towels for 10 minutes.
  • Cut the trout into a brunoise, and transfer to a bowl together with the cucumber.
  • Add the crème fraîche, onion fluid gel, lemon juice, dill, salt, and pepper, and mix with a spatula. Cover and refrigerate.

Smoked trout and sweet pepper rillettes
Yields over 4 servings

1 red and 1 yellow bell peppers, about 150 g each
30 g semi-dry Riesling
20 g top-quality olive oil
300 g cleaned [skinned, boned] trout fillets
6 g smoked salt
0.3 g curing salt
0.6 g piment d’espelette
120 g butter, softened

  • Char the peppers on a gas stovetop or using a blow torch. Then peel, seed, and cut into a brunoise. Measure 120 g, and keep the rest for another recipe.
  • Place the pepper brunoise with the Riesling into a small saucepan, simmer over medium heat for a couple minutes, then cover and cook until soft. Let cool, and reserve.
  • Spread the olive oil on the trout fillets, then place into a sous-vide pouch, vacuum-seal, and cook in a 120 F water bath for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the trout from the pouch, and pat dry with paper towels. Combine the smoked salt, curing salt, and piment d’espelette, and season the fish evenly. Let cool.
  • Place the butter in an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, and beat at maximum speed for about 5 minutes. Add about 1/4 of the trout mixture, and beat until smooth. Add the pepper and wine mixture, and beat until incorporated. Flake the rest of the trout between your fingers, add to the mixer, and beat at low speed for a few seconds, until evenly distributed but still chunky.
  • Proceeding in batches, place the rillettes onto sheets of plastic film, and shape into 3.5 cm diameter cylinders. Wrap very tightly, then refrigerate. If the rillettes are too soft to be shaped into cylinders, chill them in the fridge for a few hours first.

Moravian Trout Rillettes and Tartare

Assembly
Yields 4 servings

16 mini blini (about 5.5 cm diameter)
about 20 g butter
Riesling fluid gel
onion fluid gel
trout and cucumber tartare
smoked trout and sweet pepper rillettes
1-2 g dill, finely chopped

  • If you want to make the mini blini yourself, use the yeast-free blini/oladi recipe here.
  • In a non-stick pan over medium heat, sauté the mini blini in butter until crispy, proceeding in batches if necessary. Reserve.
  • Refrigerate the plates for a few minutes. On each plate, squeeze two dots of Riesling gel and two dots of onion gel, parallel to the rim. Place two mini blini near the center. Using a 5.5 cm diameter ring mold, mount the tartare on top of one of the blini. Place a log of rillettes on the other blini. Sprinkle some dill on top of the tartare and the onion gel, and serve immediately.

Moravian Trout Rillettes and Tartare