Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Titular Delicacy... evidence, at last. I know of only one way to obtain local trout caviar, and that is to drive to my local trout stream at the proper time of year (late September), string up my fly rod, catch a couple of fat female trout, knock them on the head, harvest their roe, painstakingly separate each individual egg from the tenacious grip of the membrane that holds the egg sack together, rinse the eggs, salt them, and let them sit for a day.

That is why it has taken me a while to get some pictures and a better description of the rare treat that gives this journal its title. (I talked about how this "blog" got its name here, back in my early, even wordier, days of blogging...!)

The end of the open season for trout in Wisconsin's inland waters looks like this at our house (if we're lucky):

That's a spectacularly colored brook trout at top, and two browns. The brookie and the smaller brown were females, and they gave identical amounts of roe. Aside from catching the fish, the only hard part about making trout caviar is separating the eggs from the membrane. Using our trusty Salter scale, the same one that gets a workout during each market bread baking, I found that each fish gave us 25 grams of roe. And I had read that caviar is usually made by adding from four to eight percent salt to the roe. I found that 1/4-teaspoon is about five grams. So I wanted less than half of that for each 25 grams of roe. What that amounted to was a couple of good pinches, just covering the surface of the eggs in their ramekins. That 25 grams, by the way, is just about two tablespoons in volume.

So in the end, here's what we had (brook trout roe on the left, brown on the right):

It was kind of a special evening, being as how I was celebrating an anniversary denoted in Roman numerals by the same letter as my last initial. So after the caviar we moved on to trout in sorrel sauce, with some beautiful little local fingerling potatoes. It made entering my second half-century pretty easy to take, actually.

Sorrel Sauce
Serves two. Sorrel is a relative of rhubarb and buckwheat. Its tart, lemony flavor is wonderful in this rich sauce for fried or grilled trout or salmon.

3/4 cup fish stock
3/4 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp dry white wine or dry vermouth
1/2 cup cream
1 small onion, sliced
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 small bunch sorrel
Salt and pepper

In a small saucepan combine the stocks, wine, onion, and 1/4 cup of cream. Bring to a boil, turn down to a quick simmer, and cook till reduced by half. Strain to remove the onion, then return strained sauce to to saucepan. Set aside.

Remove the thick stems from the sorrel. Take 3/4 of the sorrel leaves and chop them into rough confetti. Slice the rest into very fine ribbons--a chiffonade.

As your fish cooks, add the remaining 1/4 cup of cream and a pinch of salt to the saucepan and bring back to a brisk simmer. Reduce by one third. Turn the heat to low and add the chopped sorrel. Cook for one minute, then whisk the butter in a couple of teaspoons at a time. The sauce should now be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If it's not, simmer a couple of minutes more. Taste for salt, add a few grinds of pepper.

To serve, spoon the sauce over and around the fish. Garnish with the sorrel chiffonade. Any extra sauce is fabulous on plain boiled new potatoes.

p.s: I've added a great new site to our "Friends" list at right--Mr Finspot of Seattle writes a wonderful wild foods blog, Fat of the Land --superb photos, too. I've also added a link for The Creamery Restaurant and Inn, Downsville, WI . Downsville is just a few miles south of Menomonie, a little more than an hour's drive from the Twin Cities. Chef Brian Griep has enthusiastically embraced the local-seasonal food philosophy, sourcing many of his ingredients from local, sustainable and organic producers, including Midtown's own Sylvan Hills Organic Farm (whom you market regulars know as "Jackie"!). Less happy news is that Callisters' Farm in the Market, in the Midtown Global Market, is out of business.

Text and photos copyright 2008 by Brett Laidlaw


Finspot said...

Brett, your sorrel sauce looks amazing over that fatty fillet. I'm bookmarking this one for later.

I'm a big fan of making caviar too, although I haven't tried it with trout. Silver and chinook salmon both make for excellent caviar on a cracker. Separating the eggs from the skein is indeed messy work, although I've noticed that as soon as you add the salt, the leftover membranous stuff dissolves and the eggs turn a beautiful translucent red or orange.

Thanks for the shout-out. I look forward to reading more!

Trout Caviar said...

Hi Finspot: I'll bet a salmon gives you a little more than two tablespoons of roe! That's interesting that the salt takes care of the remaining skein bits; I'll remember that. This episode of Gourmet's "Diary of a Foodie" shows how they do it at a trout farm in North Carolina:


jeff said...

Chase Brook Natural will be re-opening at The Farm in the Market location in the second week of November, 2008. The new store will be selling Chase Brook Natural meat and other locally sourced organic and natural meat, eggs and dairy products.

jenn said...

sooo happy for this post! Caught a mama brookie last night and wanted to do something but had NO idea how/what. Do you think 24hrs later is too late?

Trout Caviar said...

Hi Jenn: I don't think 24 hours is too long. In fact, I've found that the roe keeps better than the fish itself, so have at it. And thanks for reminding me, I've some roe from a brown in the fridge right now!

Cheers~ Brett