Savor Cannon Beach, a multi-day wine and culinary walk, along the northern Oregon Coast was a windy, damp and cold experience. We made it to town the day after a huge storm tore out trees, dropped power lines and swelled rivers and streams on their way to the Pacific Ocean. Jason and I represented Locati and Lagana Cellars as we poured our wines at Dragonfire Gallery. Have you been to Savor Cannon Beach before? How about to Cannon Beach? Neat people from around the Northwest, fun art in the gallery, time to spend on the beach watching the tide come and go, and lots of fish places to eat at. I really enjoy fish, be it shelled or not, and when we got home I was not ready to stop eating fish.
A friend of ours asked us to smoke trout on our pellet grill a few weeks ago. Have you ever done this? We decided to do a trial run before having her over just to be sure. A local grocery had farmed rainbow trout; it smelled good when I asked for one, not strong or ‘fishy’. This seemed like the perfect week to pick up a trout to test smoke. Not the most pleasant looking thing as it was the whole fish, but it was ready to put on the grill. I had read that the meat stays together better when the fish is cooked whole. We would see…
Rainbow Trout are related to salmon; at least salmon from the Pacific Ocean. Trout are cold freshwater only. (Steelhead are Rainbow Trout that spend at least part of their lives in saltwater estuaries or the open ocean.) Native species are game fish and some populations are actually endangered, thereby the farmed source. We have spent some time fishing with friends but I still can’t identify these fish without lots of assistance.
Smoking trout on a pellet grill:
We put a few slices of lemon inside the cavity and sprayed the grill with oil before preheating it up to 450*F. When the fish went on the grill we lowered the temperature to 300*F to cook; smoked asparagus sounded good too. Half-an-hour later the asparagus and fish were fully smoked and smelling delicious. I am not overly fond of hickory and alder wood in food, oak and fruit woods are my preference. We tend to keep Apple wood pellets in the grill for general cooking. It was a terrific choice for this experiment. This fish was just under two pounds and it was perfectly done. My amenable Hubby said it was the largest Rainbow Trout he had ever smoked (interpret this to mean smaller is better). Years ago he had a small, cylindrical smoker that he used for fish he caught. Lake fish can be muddy tasting as the water is more stagnant and smoking is a common way to deal with this. There was only one small trout in the case along side five of the size I purchased. If there are two smaller fish next time, I will probably purchase them instead of the one large just for my own comparison. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Wine to pair:
Together we chose to pair a bottle of 2012 Poet”s Leap Riesling from Long Shadows Vintners with the trout. The bit of residual sugar and bright, crisp fruit was very good with it. Smoking drove most of the oils from the fish, but it was still tender, flaky meat making the pairing wonderful.
The skin removed easily from the pale pink and white meat. I lifted pieces carefully from the bones leaving the intact skeleton and delectable filets of fish. The skin definitely held the meat together, I can’t imagine cooking trout already filleted now. It tasted wonderful, just as good as it smelled. More refined than a bon fire, but still holding that comforting warm aroma. What took us so long to try this?
Apparently our cat wasn’t to be left out; Dragon hung around our feet, patient, but persistent until he received his share. Even my getting down on the floor to take his picture didn’t shift his attention. He thoroughly groomed his face and paws beside his bowl, not wanting to miss a bit of this delicacy. Cheers!