A few months back, I reported my giant catch of delicious, bright-orange-fleshed lake trout from Lake Ontario. Although I usually avoid freezing fish, that time I had no choice. This gave me plenty of trout to use, to try and perfect this ballotine recipe.
About two years ago, I posted a recipe for vodka-cured lake trout. Since I once again find myself with a profusion of trout — this time from Lake Ontario — I wanted to try a different kind of alcohol cure. (Incidentally, it’s quite interesting to compare the bright orange color of the Ontario fish to the pale pink-beige shade of the trout from Keuka Lake.)
Unlike the vodka cure, Hungarian Tokaji wine brings some subtle fruity notes to the fish. I’m not using just any Tokaji table wine, but an Aszú 4 puttonyos to get the right amount of sugar. However, I highly doubt that anyone would taste the result and exclaim, “Wow, this trout really tastes like Tokaji!” So to make this more than a gimmick, I serve it with small cubes of Tokaji jelly — and wow, these cubes really taste like Tokaji!
It’s not easy, preparing elaborate recipes with fish you catch yourself. Sometimes, you come home empty-handed and anything you’ve thought of making has to wait until next time — this has happened a lot to me recently. But at other times, you land 40 lb of fish, and then you have to act fast — like two weeks ago, after a day on Lake Ontario with Captain Troy.
As I’ve explained before, rillettes were originally a spread made of salted pork slowly cooked in fat, but many recipes involving other meats or fish are now common. In a previous post, I showed how to make some simple, quick smoked trout rillettes as an accompaniment to a seared trout fillet. Here is a slightly more complex dish that I prepared with the Cayuga Lake contingent.
You can keep the rillettes refrigerated for about 5 days. Serve them cold as an appetizer. I find that they pair particularly well with trout roe and yeast-free blini, with just a dash of lemon juice and some chives.
Lake trout rillettes
Yields one 1 1/2 qt terrine (at least 12 servings)
2 oz top-quality olive oil
34 oz cleaned (skinned and boned) trout fillets
10 g smoked salt
1 g curing salt
10 g salt
2 g piment d’espelette
6 oz white wine
1 1/2 oz whisky
6 oz butter, softened
6 oz goat’s milk butter, softened
- Spread the olive oil on the trout fillets, place into sous-vide pouches, and cook in a 120 F water bath for 30 minutes.
- Remove the trout from the pouches, and pat dry with paper towels. Season evenly with the smoked, curing and regular salts and the piment d’espelette, and reserve.
- Reduce the white wine to 1/4 in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the whisky and let cool.
- In a blender, process the wine and whisky mixture with 1/4 of the trout until smooth.
- Place the butter and goat’s milk butter in an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, and beat at maximum speed for about 5 minutes. Add the blended trout mixture, and beat until smooth. Flake the rest of the trout between your fingers, add to the mixer, and beat at low speed for a few seconds, until evenly distributed but still chunky.
- Transfer the rillettes to a 1 1/2 qt terrine mold lined with plastic wrap, cover with more plastic wrap and a lid, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
- Take out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving. Remove the rillettes from the mold and slice.
The icing on the cake when you catch your own fish is that you’ll get plenty of fish roe during spawning season – my last trip alone brought almost a pound! Cured trout roe (personally, I don’t like calling it caviar unless it comes from a sturgeon) has become an increasingly expensive delicacy, with stores charging as much as $100 for 4 oz.
And yet curing roe is incredibly fast and easy! The whole recipe requires only 3 ingredients, a scale and about 10 minutes of your time. If you don’t have curing salt, you can replace it with regular salt. You’ll be amazed by the result, too. Trout roe is milder and has a much thinner skin than its salmon counterpart, which makes it a good starting point for the fish roe skeptic.
The cured roe can be kept refrigerated for a couple weeks or more, depending on the amount of salt you use (feel free to tune it to match your taste). In theory you can even freeze it — something that retail stores do regularly to even out the effects of Caspian caviar import quotas, for example.
Cured lake trout roe
Yields 8 oz
8 oz lake trout roe, still in its sac (called skein)
about 0.35 oz (10 g) salt (see below)
1/8 tsp (0.75 g) curing salt
2/3 tsp (2 g) canola oil
- Place the roe on a cooling rack over a bowl, and rub gently to separate the eggs from the membrane (see picture below). Rinse the eggs with cold water and strain. Weigh the roe and return to a dry bowl.
- Weigh 4.5 % of the roe weight in salt, then mix with the curing salt and sprinkle over the roe. Gently mix with a spatula, add the oil and mix again. Transfer to a plastic container and refrigerate for at least 1 day, stirring every 12 hours or so.
We went back to the Finger Lakes last weekend, and spent a day fishing with Fisherman John on Cayuga Lake. It rained most of the day, but the catch ended up being pretty good. We caught a few bass, and during a brief sunny spell we managed to catch five lake trout in short succession, the biggest 28″ long, just under 7 lb.
Since this is becoming a favorite category, I am starting a recipe page dedicated to trout, char and salmon.