Whole Baked Trout with Herb Salsa ~ this glorious whole fish is no more difficult to make than regular fish, and it makes such a spectacular presentation!
I’ve never cooked a whole fish before, so how about we do this together? I’ve been thinking about trying it for a long time now, so I was ready to pounce when I spotted some nice glossy whole trout at the store. If you have a Costco near you they sell fabulous fresh fish, including top notch whole fish. Check out local seafood markets and farmer’s markets, too. I found mine at my regular grocery store, so keep an eye out, you’ll find it now and then. There is a first time for everything, and when I’m trying something new I always start simple. This kind of campfire-by-the-stream inspired dish should be simple, anyway…as long as the fish has been de-boned, this is no more difficult to cook than ordinary fish.
I don’t think I’ve ever caught a fish, but I know enough about whole fish to look for glossy skin and bright eyes. I guarantee you’ll know fresh fish when you see it. It will look, well, pretty. If there’s any doubt, pass it up. I always try to talk to the person behind the counter…ask him or her what’s fresh that day, and how they suggest cooking it. Once you buy fresh fish, keep it fresh by getting it right home and into a cold part of the fridge. And plan to use it right away. I almost always buy my fish on the day I will cook it.
The herb salsa stuffing is made with a variety of fresh herbs, finely chopped and mixed with some shallot and lemon juice. I spread it inside of each fish and then top it with thinly sliced lemons. A little sea salt and pepper across the tops of the fish, and a drizzle of olive oil is all it takes. Except for the minute amount of olive oil, this dish is virtually fat free. You could also dot the inside with butter if you aren’t impressed by the low fat thing. For that matter you could also mix in toasted bread crumbs, capers, maybe a little anchovy…we’ll leave that for another day…
- 2 8 oz whole trouts, deboned
- 1 large shallot
- 1 palmful each of parsley leaves, dill fronds, thyme leaves, and chives (remove stems)
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 small lemons, sliced paper thin
- sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
- olive oil
- Set the oven to 425F
- Rinse the fish in cold water, inside and out, and pat dry.
- Set the fish on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- To make the salsa, peel and rough chop the shallot, then put it in the bowl of a small food processor and pulse until finely minced. Remove it to a small bowl.
- Then put the herbs into the processor and pulse them until finely minced. You will have to scrape down the bowl a couple of times. Add them to the shallot and mix with the juice of half a lemon, salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste.
- Open out the fish and spread half of the salsa inside each trout. Arrange a row of lemon slices on top of the salsa, and then fold the fish closed.
- Lay out a few more slices of lemon across the top of each fish, and then sprinkle with sea sat and fresh cracked pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, and then finish under the broiler for extra crispy skin. The fish and lemons will get slightly charred. The fish should flake easily when pierced with a fork, if your fish is larger, it may take a little longer.
- Serve right away with a wedge of lemon. If you like you can cut off the head just before serving.
The fish can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to cook. This recipe is adapted from Eat Drink Paleo
The fish bakes in a hot oven so it’s crisp on the outside and moist inside. I finished it off under the broiler to drive home the crispy part. The flavors bake right into the fish from the inside, and because the fish is whole, there’s less chance of overcooking it. We loved it — the herb stuffing was light and fresh tasting and the fish was perfectly cooked. So that’s that — it was a surprisingly easy way to check something off my culinary bucket list!