Monday, April 18, 2011

Make-it-from-scratch Monday: Trout en papillote and homemade tartar sauce

I mentioned before that one of my favorite pastimes is fishing. Well, trout season opened here about 3 weeks ago and we have been eating a lot of it! Between the four of us (yes, Kate fishes too, and sometimes lands one :) we probably catch over 200 fish in a season. We eat plenty while they're fresh, and give a lot away, but freeze a bunch every year. Sometimes we fillet them if they're really big (18" +), but we usually clean them and freeze them whole. Then I have them all year long.

We usually catch rainbow trout, but on occaision catch a brook trout or two. The rainbows are much bigger, usually 12-17 inches. If we catch a brookie, they are usually dinner that night. Their flavor is much milder and doesn't hold up well to freezing. I usually pan fry those with the skin on. These are not wild fish; there are a few native trout streams in PA, but none nearby that have fish big enough to keep (7 in +). We catch them from stocked streams and lakes; some of the lake fish have been in there for years and have pink flesh like salmon (a close relative to trout) from eating a diet of insects.

I make the whole fish en papillote ("in a package"- i.e. wrapped in foil), with the cavity stuffed with seasonings, in the oven during the winter, but during the summer we do them on the grill. This is a good way to use up any of those exotic condiments you have lingering in the fridge. I made my fish this time with Oyster Sauce; in the past I've used sriracha sauce, cajun seasoning, or a bunch of fresh herbs from the garden. Chives and basil are particularly nice- the "stuffing" just contributes a little bit of flavor and aroma since you don't eat that part (though you could). You can customize each person's fish to their taste- make one with hot sauce and cajun seasoning and one with just onions and Old Bay.

You could also do this with firm filets of fish, like salmon or catfish. I would avoid using something that flakes easily (cod) or is too strong a flavor (like bluefish).


2 whole trout, cleaned and heads removed
1 onion roughly chopped or 2 ribs of celery
Old Bay seasoning
herbs and/or condiments of your choosing

1) Rinse and dry the fish.
2) Roughly chop the onion or celery

3) Prepare the aluminum foil sheets- allow plenty of space to wrap the fish loosely in packets. I usually sprinkle a bit of Old Bay on the foil first to coat the outside of the fish.

4) Place the fish on the foil and season the cavity with Old Bay or whatever else you feel like using. Stuff with the chopped onions, celery or fresh herbs.

5) Wrap the fish in the foil to make a package, and poke a few vent holes in the top with a knife.

6) Bake in a 450 degree oven for 20-30 mins. Fish will be opaque white and flake easily when done.

Meanwhile, make the tartar sauce. This is so quick and easy you will never buy it at the store again.

Combine 1/2 c mayonnaise and about 2-3 tbsps sweet pickle relish. (I'm using homemade pepper-onion relish- it has a couple whole peppercorns and cardamom seeds in it. It's really good; maybe this fall I'd share that recipe!)

Add a dash of lemon juice and about 1/2 tsp worchestershire sauce. Stir to combine. Refrigerate the unused portion and it will keep for weeks. (It tastes better in a Pyrex fridgie too! :)


  1. Sounds so delicious! I'm so impressed with your cooking skills.

  2. Sounds great! I haven't been fishing since I was a kid---used to have good times with my grandparents.

  3. Dana- Thanks! I learned a lot from working in a restaurant. I recommend that to anyone who wants to learn how to cook- just get a job doing prep work or washing dishes, waiting tables, whatever. It's so educational!

    Shannon- try it again- you'll love it, plus it's a good thing to do with your boys!