Lemony Skillet-Seared Rainbow Trout



Campfire Cookery

Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Whilst digging a fire pit, one is sure to turn up a few earthworms.   Although we fling most of them into the forest to continue performing their duty for our ecosystem, we always save a few for the fishing pole, in hopes of luring tasty rainbow trout from the cool, clean waters near camp. When fishing for trout, one must always plant one's feet firmly upon the riverbank, as their shimmering, colorful skin is uncannily similar to a mermaid's sequined sheath. While the former is destined for the frying pan, the latter draws unassuming fishermen toward tragedy with irresistibly beautiful songs, this flaky, white fish, with a simple lemon-butter dressing, requires only a few moments upon the grill to shine.

NotesClean a Fish:

The true test of any outdoorsman or woman is guts-more precisely, fish guts. For although one must never discount visceral abilities like courage, in the Great Outdoors one is measured just as seriously by his or her ability to eviscerate. Cleaning fish has an unwarranted reputation for being a difficult endeavor and a somewhat warranted reputation for being a messy one. However, we find that being armed with a thimbleful of know-how, a sharp knife, and a clean apron swiftly resolves both concerns.

1. Rinse the fish with fresh, clean water to rid it of any gritty silt or blood.

2. Use the dull back of a knife blade or the handle of a spoon to remove the scales: in short, quick strokes, run the knife from tail to the head, taking care not to pass over the areas around the fins. The scales should hail down upon one's work area like rain in Spain falling mainly on the plains. (If no scales fall, the fish is of a breed that does not need scaling. Proceed to step 3.) Continue until the fish has the silken texture of a clean-shaven cheek.

3. Hold the fish with the backside in one's palm and the pale belly facing upward. Locate the vent, a small hole close to the tail. Slip the tip of one's knife into this hole and slit the fish cleanly up to the gills, located just behind the jaw. Cut shallowly, to avoid puncturing the entrails. The cavity of the fish should now gape open.

4. Plunge one's fingers into the opening and remove the innards, snipping them close to the fish's head. Carefully scrape out the dark red kidney line hugging the length of the spine.

5. Carefully slice or snip off the sharp fins, head, and tail, if one wishes. Rinse the fish once more with cold water, inside and out. Dry well before cooking.

6. While the rice cooks, place a skillet upon the grill grate and get it very, very hot. Season the fish fillets all over with salt. Add the fillets, skin side down, to the pan and cook until the flesh is just opaque and flakes easily with a fork, 7 to 8 minutes per side.

7. To serve, fluff the pilaf with a fork and stir in the chopped grilled fennel, orange segments, and almonds. Arrange the fish prettily on top and scatter with chopped fennel fronds.

Provides4 portions

Cooking Methodpan-frying



Total Timeunder 2 hours

OccasionFamily Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free



Taste and Texturecrisp, light, savory


  • 2 lemons
  • Four 8- to -10ounce whole rainbow trout, cleaned (see Notes, or ask the fishmonger to perform this task)
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly milled black pepper, to taste
  • 4 small garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and patted dry


  1. Prepare a high-heat fire, with the flames licking the grill grate. Let it burn steadily for 30 minutes.

  2. Slice 1 lemon very thinly; cut the remaining lemon into wedges.

  3. Coat the outside of the fish with oil. Season the fish all over, inside and out, with salt and pepper. Stuff each fish with lemon slices, garlic slices, and thyme. Top with butter cubes and capers.

  4. Heat a cast-iron skillet over the grill grate until very hot. Carefully arrange the stuffed trout in the skillet and cook until the skin is crisp-golden and the flesh is opaque and flakes easily with a fork, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

  5. Serve hot, with lemon wedges for squeezing over the fish.


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