For more food-related blogs from Georgia Pellegrini, check out her website www.GeorgiaPellegini.com.
When I was a child growing up in the Hudson Valley, I used to sit on a rock by the side of our creek, push a fat worm onto a hook, and catch my trout. Then I would fry it in a skillet and eat it for breakfast.
It was a normal pattern in my eight year life that seemed as natural as breathing, or throwing skipping rocks. Then, as I got older, the current of life pushed me toward other things and catching my trout for breakfast was no longer a daily pursuit.
Years later, fully immersed in the fast-paced life of New York City, I sat down to eat at Gramercy Tavern. The head chef began sending me bits of food to taste, as I contemplated taking a job there, and in one watershed moment my decision was made. He placed a piece of smoked trout before me, drizzled with pickled onions and kohlrabi puree. This was quite possibly the best thing I'd ever tasted. The texture was soft and creamy, the smoke was subtle and oaky, the pickles were tangy and sweet.
It is possible that what I was tasting was a memory -- of those days where life simply consisted of catching my trout for breakfast and skipping rocks. But it's a memory worth reliving many times over, because it tastes so good.
The thing to remember about trout is that the flesh is very delicate and so filleting it takes some nimble fingers. Tweezers also come in handy to help remove all of the pin bones.
What is brilliant about this hot smoked trout, is how quickly it smokes and how good the result is. Seven minutes on each side, in my stovetop smoker and I recreated something just as good as you'll find in a four star restaurant. I used Alder wood chips because it is mild and doesn't overwhelm the flavor of the trout. But any similar wood will do.
The pickled onions are a tangy crunchy dressing, which is a nice paring with the soft mild trout.
Is there a particular fish or game that incites those childhood memories in you? We'd love to hear about them. Submit those recipes to "The Kitchen," and share them with everyone.
Hot Smoked Trout
1 brook trout
1. Fillet the trout carefully so as not to damage the flesh. Remove the pin bones from each fillet. (For a visual explanation on how to do this, look at the accompanying photo set)
2. Set up your smoker and lay the two fillets skin side down on the grill. Cover it and smoke for 7 minutes. Remove the lid and flip the fillet over flesh side down and smoke it for 7 minutes more.
3. Lay the fillets carefully on a cutting board flesh side down. The skin will peel off easily if you start from one end and peel it back to the other. This will be your presentation side.
4. Drizzle this side with olive oil and salt and garnish with the pickled onion vinaigrette.
Pickled Onion Vinaigrette
1 medium onion, minced or finely diced
1 cup red wine
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar (optional)
1 tablespoon port (optional)
1 teaspoon sugar (if not using port and raspberry vinegar)
¼ cup olive oil
Lemon juice to taste
1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan (reserve the olive oil and lemon juice for later use) simmer and reduce until ingredients are tender.
2. Finish the vinaigrette by whisking in olive oil and a drop of lemon juice.
Editor's note: Georgia's passion for good food began at an early age, on a boulder by the side of a creek as she caught her trout for breakfast. After Wellesley and Harvard -- and a brief stint on Wall Street -- she decided to leave the cubicle world behind and enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in New York City.
Upon graduating at the top of her class, she worked in two of America's best restaurants, Gramercy Tavern and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, as well as in one of the premier destination restaurants in Provence, France, La Chassagnette. It was there that she decided it was time to really get at the heart of where our food comes from and head to the source -- Mother Nature. She bought a shotgun and set her sites on the cutting edge of culinary creativity intent on pushing the boundaries of American gastronomy, from field to stream to table.
Her new book, "Food Heroes: Tales of 16 food artisans preserving tradition" will be coming out this year. She currently roams the world, hunting, tasting good food and meeting the good people who make it. You can read more about her work at www.GeorgiaPellegrini.com.