Snow covers the rolling pastures lining an un-shoveled back road as icicles invade the trim of an old farmhouse… Winter is an increasingly difficult time for any chef… To cook under the restraints of a ruthless, often barren season calls for a cook to showcase his talents and creativity in different ways. This time, this season, is when you can learn to expect rustic techniques, rudimentary ingredients and you can see the true worth of a cook.
A visit to Dennis Penzkover, over at Timberline Trout Ranch, checking in on the progress of this years Maple Syrup Production, has me leaving with a couple of fresh line-caught Trout, how I do love a good fresh fish. After about a 45 minute drive home, I had begun formulating a plan on how to give these fish New Life.
And, Off With It’s Head
In my preparations for this specific dish, I take off the head, butterfly and de-bone the tiny fish leaving the flesh in tact.
I begin to think about accoutrements, What would I want from a fish dish… in the middle of winter? I begin exercising an array of techniques.
Giving the Fillet Dimension & Depth
I smoke one of the whole fish and the scraps of the others after a quick cure, in a bit of apple wood. The taste of smoldering embers perfumes the flesh just barely cooking the succulent fillet. I make a Mousse.
I pipe the smoked mouse along the spine of the freshly butterflied Trout. I season the flesh lightly and roll the Fish into a cylinder giving the fillets life once again.
Remember people eat with their eyes first, I chose to roll the fillet after being stuffed hoping to create something visually enticing. I lightly poach my parcel, paying attention to a relatively short cooking time. I pull the parcel after only a few moments submerged in the boiling water and shock the fish in a cold ice bath.
Then, I unwrap the fish, and into a smoking cass-iron skillet. Butter, lemon, thyme, salt and pepper are tossed in to accompany the Fillet.
As I carefully cut the Rolled fillet, the fragrance of hot embers emerges from the center. Its smells sweet and primitive. There is a consuming comfort, know only to man, as the mouthwatering fragrance of fire and flesh perfume the air.
Lemon & Herb Roasted Rainbow Trout, Rutabaga Mash, Pickled Pepper, Asparagus Tips.