Thursday, May 28, 2009

Brown Trout "Escabeche" with Ramps and Asparagus

Escabeche, a Spanish dish, usually consists of cooked, marinated fish served cold or at room temperature. I'm taking liberties with these rye-coated fried trout fillets served hot over a tart sauce with seared ramps and asparagus. It's sort an escabeche-beurre blanc hybrid.

And it's a pure celebration of spring in the North Country: I caught the trout (as described, in excrutiating detail, in the previous post) in one of my favorite Wisconsin rivers; gathered the ramps from the loamy woods not fifty yards from the same stream; picked the asparagus from a patch we found growing wild out at Bide-A-Wee.

You could substitute rainbow trout, herring, whitefish, or mackerel for the brown trout. Any smallish fillets of fish convenient to fry would work. A fairly rich fish goes well with the acidic sauce. I dusted the trout with rye flour in this version. You could also use buckwheat, whole wheat, or all-purpose.

"Escabeche" of Brown Trout with Ramps and Asparagus
serves two

4 brown trout fillets
1/2 cup rye flour
salt and pepper
oil and butter, about 2 tsp each

6 thick spears asparagus
5 medium ramps (about 3/4 cup when chopped)
2 tsp canola oil or similar
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp mild, flavorful vinegar (such as
Leatherwood Vinegary's apple wine vinegar, or a good cider vinegar, or "white balsamic" which probably isn't authentic but I find it quite useful at times...)
1/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup fish stock
1/4 tsp sugar
salt and pepper

With really good, fresh, springtime asparagus, nearly the entire stalk should be tender, so we can avoid that whole horribly divisive snap-or-peel debate. Trim the bottom inch or so of the asparagus. Take a nibble; if it seems tender, off you go. If not, trim a bit more, or peel...but I said I wasn't going to go there.... Slice the asparagus quite thin on the diagonal, about 1/4-inch, leaving the top of the spear--about three inches--intact. Slice the ramp bulbs the same way; chop the greens coarsely and set aside.

Heat a skillet or broad saucepan, and add the canola oil and 1 Tbsp of butter. When it is very hot, add the sliced asparagus, reserving the spears. Fry hard for a minute or so, to give a little color to the slices. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, and add the sliced ramp bulbs. Fry these at high heat for a minute or so, until they too begin to brown. Add the ramp greens and cook for 30 seconds to wilt them.

Add the vinegar, wine, stock, sugar and a good pinch of salt. Cook at a fast simmer until reduced by half.

While the sauce is reducing, cook the trout: season the fillets with salt and pepper, coat them lightly with rye flour, and fry in a little additional oil and butter (say, two teaspoons each), two to three minutes per side, till nicely browned.

Add the asparagus spears to the sauce and cook for one minute. Return the sliced aspagagus to the pan, add the remaining two tablespoons of butter, bring the heat to high and boil furiously for about 30 seconds to emulsify the sauce. Add a few grinds of pepper, taste for salt--it will probably need a good pinch or two, to help balance the acidity. Don't be alarmed if it tastes quite tart--that will also be offset by the rich fried fish.

Fish out the asparagus tops. Spoon the sauce into the bottom of large bowls or plates, arrange the fish fillets attractively atop, and surmount the whole with the asparagus spears for a jaunty garnish.

A couple of boiled new potatoes fill out the plate.

To me this just cried out for a crisp, dry Alsatian riesling--we opened a bottle from Pierre Sparr. A Spanish albarino would also be lovely.

Text and photos copyright 2009 by Brett Laidlaw

1 comment:

HungryinSW said...

If I were a trout, this is how I would want to go out.