My brothers and I used to fish for trout when we visited our grandparents in the Poconos, in Pennsylvania. If my siblings read this, they’ll insist that they were fishing and I was merely watching. It’s true that after a few years I started feeling sorry for the fish and didn’t want to catch them anymore. (This didn’t stop me from eating them.)
Trout frying hasn’t changed a huge amount since colonial times. Here’s a 1753 recipe from The Ladies’ Companion, reprinted in The Williamsburg Art of Cookery:
“You must, with a Knife, gently scrape off all the Slime from your Fish, wash them in Salt and Water, gut them, and wipe them very clean with a Linnen Cloth; that done, strew Flour over them, and fry them in sweet Butter, till they are brown and crisp; then take them out of the Frying-pan, and lay them on a Pewter Dish, well-heated before the Fire…. Afterwards, good Store of Parsley and young Sage being fry’d crisp in other sweet Butter, take out the Herbs, and lay them on your Fish. In the meanwhile, some Butter being beaten up with three or four Spoonfuls of scalding hot Spring-water, in which an Anchovy has been dissolved, pour it on the Trouts, and let them be served up. Garnish with the Leaves of Strawberries, Parsley, &c.”
There’s a lot of butter in this dish. For my butter-hating husband (he’s lactose intolerant), I fried one trout in olive oil instead of butter, and skipped the anchovy-butter sauce. As a former Weight Watchers editor I shouldn’t say this, but fry the fish in butter if you can.
2 butterflied trout
1 cup all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
2 anchovy filets, finely chopped
1 lemon, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1. Pat the trout dry with paper towels. Place the flour in a shallow bowl. Coat the flesh side of the fish with flour. (I tried “strewing” as in the recipe above, but don’t think it works as well as pressing the fish into the flour.)
2. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a frying pan (preferably cast iron) large enough to hold two butterflied trout. (Alternatively, you can cook the fish one at a time in a medium-size pan.) When the butter is sizzling but not smoking, place the fish skin-side up in the pan; fry for about 5 minutes, not moving the fish much, until it is golden brown. (It is more common to start fish skin-side down, but I think with a large butterflied trout the reverse works well also — the fish doesn’t curl and the flesh ends up very tender.)
Yeah I know, it’s cute in a creepy sort of way, or vice versa. Then flip the fish over and cook for about 3 minutes more. Remove fish from pan, and if you have a “Pewter Dish well-heated by the fire” or another warmed plate, use it. I’m not that organized.
3. In a small frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon butter and fry parsley about 3 minutes, or until crisp.
4. In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter with anchovies and simmer several minutes, then add about three tablespoons very hot water and stir to blend.
5. Pour anchovy sauce over fish and serve garnished with parsley and lemon slices. Season to taste with salt and pepper.