More and more, I am returning to pure cooking where the basic ingredients pay the starring role and complicated or incongruous extras are left back stage, as with this trout. The fresh food markets in Paris and Saint-Germain-en-Laye were already brimming with great produce, while here in the Ariège you are very close to the producer.
I found nice trout at the fishmongers, raised locally, and prepared it in the simplest way possible – I cleaned and dried them, melted a good helping of butter in a large oval skillet and baked the fish on low heat for 12 minutes on each side and then sprinkled it with lemon juice.
I could have cut the fins off. I could have put them in milk and then in a bad with flour to make trout meunière, or with almonds, ham, bacon, chorizo, cream, pureed herbs, white raisins and champagne.
But the main taste element remains the delicate meat of the fish, with a slight undertone of the riverbed, enhanced with a splash of fresh and zany lemon and some white pepper.
Of course there is wild trout in the Pyrenees, caught in rapid-streaming and clear rivers. But there is no commercial fishing on these protected ones and private people need a permit and have limits.
Most of the trout for sale is raised in small ponds. I usually buy it from a producer who taks his truck to the market with big barres of water in which the fish still swim.
A restaurant I recently ate in used frozen fish and the cook said that well-frozen fish was better in taste than fresh fish that has been dead for a while. It did taste good.
It is only with very recently killed fish that you can make the “blue trout” recipe — here the trout is cooked in a stock with vegetables and herbs and some vinegar that will turn the fish blue due to a reaction with the slime-cover of the skin. Visually interesting but you taste more of the stock than the fish!