It’s not easy, preparing elaborate recipes with fish you catch yourself. Sometimes, you come home empty-handed and anything you’ve thought of making has to wait until next time — this has happened a lot to me recently. But at other times, you land 40 lb of fish, and then you have to act fast — like two weeks ago, after a day on Lake Ontario with Captain Troy.
The day started very slowly, with all the brown trout choosing to have a lie-in instead of biting our lures. After a few hours spent crisscrossing the area along the shore a few miles from Oswego, we moved to a different spot to try our luck with lake trout. Within an hour at most, we packed the cooler with our limit of lakers — the biggest ones weighed around 7 pounds each. It must have been perfect timing because soon afterwards, none of the other boats could catch any fish! We ourselves went back to searching for brownies or the rest of the day, with no more success than earlier.
Catching the fish is only the beginning of the challenge. Then you have to fight the exhaustion of having gotten up at 4 am (worse for me, I’ve also got to make the 5 hour drive home). You have to clean and package the fish for proper storage. And then you have to seriously think of what you’re going to do with it all. Oh, and if you’re like me, you still have to go to work the next day.
To help you come up with a variety of preparations for all that fish, I’ve got a page with all my trout, char and salmon recipes. Today’s new addition to my list is adapted from Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine at Home, with only a few changes. Please don’t be scared by the title! The preparation is actually fairly simple, and this method, applied to these superb lakers, probably produced the best trout or salmon I’ve ever eaten.
Fish spice mix
Yields over 8 servings
0.9 oz hazelnuts
0.8 oz sesame seeds
0.2 oz coriander seeds
0.1 oz fennel pollen
0.05 oz salt
- Place the hazelnuts on a tray, and roast in a 350 F oven for 10 minutes.
- Rub the nuts with a paper towel to remove their skins, then coarsely chop with a knife and reserve.
- Place the sesame and coriander seeds in a small saucepan, and toast over medium heat for about 3 minutes.
- Transfer the sesame and coriander seeds to a spice grinder (or coffee grinder, or powerful blender), add the hazelnuts, fennel pollen, and salt, and grind to a powder. Stop frequently to scrape the walls of the grinder and avoid turning the mixture into a paste. Reserve.
A note about cooking sous-vide
Sous-vide doesn’t have to be complicated or intimidating. This is particularly true with fish, because it cooks in a very short amount of time. My first vacuum device was a Reynolds Handi-Vac that my girlfriend got for free during a sidewalk sample hand-out, and I used it quite satisfactorily for several years until no amount of duct tape could fix it anymore. And if you don’t feel like investing a few dollars in a vacuum pump, you can even get away with Ziplocs — just squeeze the air out as best you can.
Cooking the fish in a water bath is equally simple. A large pot of water with a thermometer makes a great water bath. Some people even use their bathtubs! Get the water to the desired temperature (don’t forget to stir before using the thermometer), put in your sous-vide pouch/glorified Ziploc, cover with a lid, and relax. At mid-time, heat some more water in a saucepan, and use it as needed to re-adjust the temperature in the pot.
Sous-vide lake trout
Yields 4 servings
32 oz cold water
1.75 oz salt
1.4 oz sugar
22 oz skinned and cleaned lake trout fillets
3.6 oz butter, cut into 8 slices
- Pour the water, salt, and sugar into a blender, and process until dissolved.
- Cut the trout fillets into 4 equal portions, then place in a dish, cover with brine, and refrigerate for about 4 hours.
- Drain the fish, and pat dry with paper towels. Place each fillet in a sous-vide pouch with one slice of butter on each side, and seal.
- Cook the trout pouches in a 115 F water bath for 25 minutes.
Spring vegetable mix
Yields 4 servings
6.5 oz peeled asparagus, cut into 2″ pieces
5 oz fresh shelled green peas
sugar (optional, see below)
4.5 oz cleaned morels
0.8 oz butter
1 oz crème fraîche
- Blanch the asparagus in salted boiling water until just slightly crunchy. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Let cool, then drain and reserve.
- Blanch the green peas in salted boiling water. If the peas don’t taste sweet at all, you can add a little bit of sugar to the water (around 1/2 tbsp of sugar for 2 qt of water). Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Let cool, then drain and reserve.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, sauté the morels in the butter for a minute, stirring constantly. Add the crème fraîche, cover, and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve.
Yields 4 servings
spring vegetable mix
3.3 oz butter
0.5 oz fish spice mix
sous-vide lake trout
1 tsp finely chopped dill
- Reheat the spring vegetables (asparagus, peas, and morels) with 0.5 oz of butter in a small saucepan over low heat.
- In a non-stick frying pan over medium heat, melt the rest of the butter. Add the fish spice mix, and stir until the butter starts foaming.
- Take the fillets out of their pouches, and add them to the pan. Cook the fish 30 seconds per side, while constantly basting with a spoon.
- Serve immediately with the spring vegetables and some dill sprinkled on top. Don’t spoon the butter on top of the fish, as it can rapidly become too rich (even for me)!