One summer, my dad took me and my sister on a grand tour of the American West in a minivan. I spent much of the trip lying in the backseat, listening to The Cure on my Walkman and staring at the magnificent, changing landscape flying past. We camped for a few nights in the Grand Tetons, and one of our camp neighbors shared some of his trout catch with us.
Every time that I make trout, I think about that dinner. It was perfect: the sky was big and gray and dramatic — the way it often is in the mountains — and there was a pan sizzling over a camp stove with butter, garlic, and this fresh, perfect lake fish. Simple is best with trout: here, an easy, summery relish of fresh cherry tomatoes, capers and shallots complement the subtle fragrance of tarragon and lemon.
Pan-fried Trout with Cherry Tomato and Caper Relish
Yield: 2 servings (easily scaled up)
2 whole, butterflied trout
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon, thinly sliced
6 fresh tarragon sprigs
2 medium shallots, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, rinsed
2 tablespoons capers, drained
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
First, prepare the relish. Heat a large skillet over a medium low flame. Add one tablespoon olive oil. Add the diced shallots and sauté for about a minute. Add the cherry tomatoes. Stir occasionally, making sure the shallots don’t brown. After about five minutes, add the capers. When the cherry tomatoes soften and begin to pop, remove from heat. Set aside.
Next, warm a large skillet over a medium flame. Add one tablespoon olive oil. Tuck a few slices of lemon and a few sprigs of tarragon into the middle of each trout. Sprinkle each with coarse salt and a little freshly ground pepper. Gently place the trout in the pan, and let them sit, undisturbed, for about three minutes. Using a large fish spatula, gently flip and repeat for another three minutes. Remove from heat.
Plate each trout and top with the cherry tomato relish.