Grilled fish is one of the purest pleasures of summer. The immediacy of it all –– fresh and simple –– makes for the very best kind of eating.
High on my personal list of skills I’d like to learn is fishing. I used to fish with my dad all the time, but one day in the peak adolescent years, sticking the hook through the minnows’ mouths was too much for me and I swore off eating any animals for 13 years. Now that I’m back to more omnivorous ways, the ability to catch my own supper is something I’d really like to reclaim. The dream of fishing goes hand in hand with my desire to become some kind of backwoods canoeing badass, but I think the canoe thing will have to wait until next summer. For this one, I’ll be perfectly content with trout straight from a Virginia stream.
There’s a trout guy at the Saturday market here in town; he sells peonies too, and this week, we picked up both. Grilling seemed the obvious choice, and with that in mind, Brian and I put together a menu for the night. Turnips were roasted and tossed with the last ramps of the season and some homemade aioli, for a kind of Whole30 homage to a classic potato salad (We’re done with our Whole30, and plan to post about it soon –– for now, we’re sticking to most of the rules, most of the time.). Brian fired up the grill and cooked a pineapple and the trout. (I know pineapple isn’t local, but it’s good, so let’s just go with it.) With some rosé, garden herbs, sea salt and lemon wedges aplenty, we had an excellent summer dinner.
Grilling trout is simple, but keeping the skin intact takes a little finesse. The first step is to really scrape your grill clean before you get started so there’s less for the skin to stick to. Next, you’ll want to keep the heat relatively low, so let the coals burn down a little longer than for a burger or steak. Finally, be careful with oil, you want to use enough to keep the fish from sticking, but not so much that it drips on to the coals causing a flare up.
Grilled Trout, Grilled Pineapple, and Roasted Turnip and Ramp Salad
makes two generous portions
for the roasted turnip and ramp salad
2 bunches turnips, trimmed, peeled, and cut into even 1/2-inch chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon paprika
5 ramps, cleaned and chopped
1/4 cup aioli or mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives, oregano, or thyme
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
On a rimmed baking sheet, toss turnips with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle on sea salt, pepper, and paprika. Roast for 20 – 30 minutes, flipping turnips once halfway through cook time.
In a small bowl, combine the aioli, lemon zest and juice, and prepared horseradish.
Toss warm turnips with the ramps, and then fold in the aioli mixture. Add the herbs. Taste, and adjust salt or acid levels as needed.
for the pineapple
1 whole pineapple, exterior cut away and sliced into 3/4-inch thick half moons
Pour charcoal into your grill –– enough to cover the bottom with a couple layers, but leaving 4-5 inches between the grill grate and the coals. Form the charcoal into a pyramid and light.
When fire has died down, and the coals are hot, grill the pineapple for 3 minutes per side. Set aside on a platter while you grill the trout.
To grill the trout, you’ll want the coals to burn until completely gray and cool enough that you can hold your hand comfortably over it for a few seconds. Spread the coals out.
for the trout
2 whole trout (10 – 12 ounces each), gutted with gills removed
approximately 2 teaspoons olive oil
sea salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons minced chives
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
Rinse the trout and pat it dry.
Brush each trout with oil and then hold it up to let any excess oil drip off. Sprinkle with salt.
Pour a little oil onto a paper towel and quickly wipe the grill down.
Place trout on the grill and let it cook for 4-5 minutes undisturbed, so the skin forms a crust (which will make it easier to keep intact when you flip the trout).
Gently flip trout using two spatulas, working your way under it from the belly side.
Cook for 4-5 more minutes and gently remove from the grill using two spatulas.
Sprinkle fish with minced herbs, and serve with lemon slices and salt.