trout done

Be forewarned: There’s serious fat in this dish.

A full cup of butter and olive oil (which is half of what the original recipe called for).

But what a dish. What technique.

Perfect pan-roasted trout.

Last Christmas, the husband gave me NY chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s cookbook, “Prune.” Filled with recipes from her restaurant of the same name, Hamilton’s book reads more like a wise and sometimes grouchy kitchen coach’s whisperings in your ears. When breaking the breastbone of a chicken, she says, press it like you’re a “chiropractor.” When braising meat, submerge it ’til it looks like “alligators in a swamp.” Many of her recipes read as little more than tips on technique.

Which brings me to the trout.

My family loves trout. Mine is usually overcooked (when roasted) or undercooked and gummy (when fried).

Turns out (Hamilton whispers), I was handling it wrong. My pan wasn’t hot enough. My fillets were over-floured. I was flipping the fish.

I didn’t have enough fat.

Hamilton’s recipe calls for a screaming hot pan and copious amounts of butter and olive oil, which you use to baste the trout. Flour coats only the skin-side of the fish. You never flip the fillets. (And before you get all health- and calorie-conscious on me, rest assured that most of the fat remains in the pan.)

We dined on crisp, brown, succulent pieces of pan-roasted trout last night.

Thank you, Coach.

Perfect Pan-Roasted Trout (Adapted from “Prune”)

trout raw

Buy the freshest trout fillets you can find for this dish. Smell them. If they smell fishy, don’t buy them. If they look gummy, don’t buy them. You want glistening flesh and shiny skin.

Also, take care when basting. The fat is going to sputter. It’s going to get on your hand. It’s going to sting. Work carefully.

  • 4 trout fillets
  • Semolina flour
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided

Pat the trout fillets dry. Season them with salt and pepper.

Place a generous amount of semolina flour on a plate or baking sheet. Place the skin-side of two trout fillets in the flour, being careful not to get any on the flesh side. Shake off any excess. You want a thin, even coating of semolina on your fish skin.

Place a large saute pan (I used my 14-incher) over high heat.

Place 4 tablespoons of butter and 4 tablespoons of olive oil in the pan and heat until melted and foamy.

Add the two floured fillets. Press lightly with a spatula to make sure the skin is fully touching the bottom of your pan:

trout in pan

When the fish moves easily in the pan, begin spooning the butter/olive oil mixture over the flesh. Do this until the fish is opaque:

trout basting

Remove the fillets from the pan. Empty the fat and wipe the pan clean.

Repeat with the remaining two fillets and the remaining butter and olive oil.

You could garnish this dish with lemon juice and herbs, but that’s a gilding this particular fish does not need. We ate ours naked.