Cooking trout is an art, not a task.
It begins with the desire to reach into the mysteries of the river,
to taste the elusive fruit of water running over rocks and in secret
places, water, muscular, fluid and speaking in mystic tongues. Observe
them if you can, these ghosts of the river that alert one to their
presence with the splash of their laughing departure. Desire to
be them, to flow in streams and currents, to swim unceasingly through
night and day and night again, the rhythm beneath the voice of the
Then with your heart filled with silent awe, select your trout.
The ideal trout should weigh no more than 200 grams, or slightly
less than half a pound. For this I recommend shopping rather than
fly-fishing, as one cannot be sure of catching anything, let alone
the right size. I must confess too, that I shrink from the act of
slitting that silver belly to spill its life back into the river.
My city-bred squeamishness cannot encompass the steps between the
living river fish and the delicate pink flesh, glistening with butter.
Be particular! Do not accept anything over 225 grams! This is important.
In larger fish, the fine lateral bones are too developed and do
not disintegrate during cooking. Unless you are a freak-show performer,
adept at swallowing needles, avoid large trout at all costs! Make
sure the eyes are not sunken and grey. They should be clear with
a flash of sunlight still trapped within them. You will need one
trout per person. Do not flinch when you pay the price, something
fine and beautiful has been sacrificed. Do not invite any bleeding-heart
bunny-huggers to dinner either, they will ruin the experience for
Do not, under any circumstances, place your trout in the refrigerator
or freezer “for another day”! Trout should be eaten
on the day they died. If you think frozen fish is still fish, let
the trout live and stick to frozen fish cakes! Do not dishonour
the noble trout! Wash the trout in fresh water. Feel the wetness,
slipperiness of its speckled skin. Run a finger through its body
cavity and feel the paper-thin ridges of the bones, marvel at the
beauty of the fins, translucent fans that convert water into speed.
Lay it on a board and pat it dry with kitchen paper, dab the excess
water out of the body cavity. Do not attempt to wipe the protective
slime off the skin - this will be necessary for the next step.
your oven to 160 C. On another board, mix flour, salt and pepper.
Don't be tempted to add anything more, this is not tuna! Roll the
trout in the mixture. If you have stripped its skin down to dryness,
the flour will not stick. Rub a little of the flour inside the fish.
Cut slivers of cold, fresh, salted butter and place them inside
too. Melt some butter in a small dish. Place the fish in a shallow
cooking dish where it can lie comfortably at full length. Splash
some butter onto it with a soft brush. Commit your trout to the
Whatever vegetable or salad is to accompany the fish should have
been prepared by this stage, preferably entrusted to a novitiate,
eager to learn but unworthy of touching the trout yet. The table
should have been laid with crystal and candlelight and fresh flowers.
Work quickly now, time is growing short. Take a generous handful
of flaked almonds and toss them into a pan. Whatever kind of pan,
it's not important, the trout is cooking as we speak. Place the
pan on a hot-plate, very hot. Toss them carefully, roll them over
with a spoon. At first it will appear that nothing is happening,
but all the while, the precious oil inside them is heating up and
in a matter of seconds they will turn from white to gold and then
ruined, charred black. The trick is to rescue them just as they
turn to perfect gold.
Ah! But what is this? Your mouth is filled with saliva; you cannot
help yourself. The aroma of the trout cooking is utterly irresistible.
If you check your watch, you will observe that approximately 10
minutes have elapsed since you placed the trout in the oven. Everything
has its own magical timing and now it is time to turn the trout.
A plague on those who demur these sensuous signals and set kitchen
Remove the dish from the oven and using an egglifter, gently pry
the trout loose from the dish and turn them over. See how the flesh
has changed from deep sunset peach to the dusty, pale pink of old
roses. Splash more melted butter onto the trout. You should not
have invited anyone from the Heart Foundation to dinner either.
If you are using margarine, I will find out who you are and personally
drag you out and shoot you.
Place the trout back in the oven. If this is your first attempt,
you will have burnt the almonds by now. Quickly! Throw them out
and do some more! You have less than five minutes before the trout
As the almonds turn to gold, remove the pan from the heat and throw
in a large lump of butter. The almonds will bubble and sizzle and
the butter will smoke slightly. Add another lump of butter and stir
while it melts away to golden sludge and then clear yellow liquid.
Set it aside and remove the trout from the oven. Summon the diners
to the table; tardiness cannot be tolerated.
Gently pry the trout loose from the dish with the egg lifter again.
Take care not to damage their form, the cooked flesh breaks apart
so easily. Arrange each fish on the plate so that the diner may
appreciate its beauty and spoon a scatter of golden almonds along
its length. Observe the eager faces of the diners ...and without
further ado - serve.
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