Pan-Fried Brook Trout with Herbed Parsnip and Carrot Hash

Living in a rather secluded and arid neck of the woods, I can't think of anything more exciting than being gifted with fresh fish. Truthfully, it happens to me more often than is fair, compared to other folks in town, because my boss is a fisherman. There's never a shortage of striped bass from Lake Powell, but I also tend to receive fresh cod and halibut when he visits Alaska (usually once a year), fresh red snapper, shrimp and oysters when he visits the Big Boss down on the Gulf of Louisiana, and most recently, fresh brook trout from cold-water creeks in Southern Utah.

Handily, when these fresh and saltwater beauties make their way to my freezer, there is a recipe or two bumping about in the back of my mind that I've been dying to make. Such was the case when the trout were hand-delivered to my front door. Erin French's new cookbook, The Lost Kitchen has only been in my possession for one short month, but it is already dog-eared and lovingly marred with stains. I feel slightly guilty about that, but I'm admittedly a slightly messy cook and it IS a cookbook, after all. I don't think Erin would mind at all.

This is a beautiful cookbook both aesthetically (those of you who are into books know what I mean) as well as spiritually. Part memoir, Erin's heart and soul is laid out for us to devour at our leisure, and after reading the book cover to cover, I felt that much stronger for sharing in her hard work and success. The food is simple yet elevated, and the recipes are entirely do-able for anyone interested in putting a good meal on the table. My first endeavor was her Sweet Parsnip Cake. I've made it twice to rave reviews.

I went a bit overboard with the parsnips, though, and had a bit left over from cake baking. When I heard trout was on its way to me, I felt giddy with excitement. I had everything I needed for Pan-Fried Trout with Herbed Parsnip and Carrot Hash.

This is a super-simple and fantastic way to cook fish, regardless of what your species might be. Make sure it's super fresh and you're already ahead of the game. Fresh fish fillets are stuffed with lemon and fresh herbs, then "flash-fried" over high heat to crisp the skin before being shuffled off to finish in a hot oven. The parsnip-carrot hash takes a bit more time and labor, so get it going before you start the fish, which comes together pretty quickly.

If you're like me and didn't grow up frolicking about in the outdoors, and you were too shy to join the girl scouts, you might need a bit of help filleting a fresh fish - unless you're lucky enough to purchase or have your fish delivered for you already cleaned. Here's a fantastic little video I found online that helped me remove the ribs, back-bone and pin bones in my trout: https://youtu.be/18am-cr0yG0. Go slow and use a sharp knife. You got this!

Cooking this dish was so much fun, and eating it made me feel good about myself. Every ingredient came straight from the land. Nothing was boxed, packaged, or processed. Okay - I guess the butter was processed. I didn't churn it myself, so ... okay, I didn't process the vegetable oil either. But you get me here, right? Brook trout are a little "mossy-grassy" tasting but the flavor paired beautifully with the earthiness of the parsnips and the sweetness of the carrots. So simple, yet so refined. I hope you'll try this the next time you have fresh fish on-hand.

And also, get Erin's cookbook post-haste. 

Pan-Fried Brook Trout with Herbed Parsnip and Carrot Hash

From The Lost Kitchen Cookbook
Serves 4

*You'll note in the pictures I only had two trout, but the recipe calls for four and since that's what most people will be serving, I kept the ingredients and directions exactly as they are in Erin's cookbook.

Ingredients

Fish -

4 small trout (around 1 pound each)

2 lemons, cut into 4 slices each, ends reserved for juice)

1 bunch of fresh thyme

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

 

Parsnip Hash -

1 1/2 pounds parsnips

1/2 lb carrots

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 large shallots, sliced

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

Salt and pepper

6 sprigs fresh dill, snipped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives


For the Parsnip Hash -

  1. Dice the parsnips and carrots (I like to leave the skin on) into 1/2-inch pieces and blanch until just al dente; start testing for tenderness after 10 minutes. To blanch: bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt with a fistful of kosher salt. Add parsnips and carrots. Stop the cooking by transferring the vegetables with a spider to an ice bath. Drain and refrigerate until just cool.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 10-inch cast-iron pan over low heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until deeply caramelized, about 20 minutes.
  3. Raise the heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon olive oil, the butter and thyme. Stir to melt the butter. Add the parsnips and carrots and stir to coat. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and a couple twists of pepper and continue cooking until the parsnips begin to brown, stirring occasionally to keep them from burning, 6 to 8 minutes.
  4. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Remove from the heat and stir in the dill and chives.

For the Fish - 

  1. Preheat the oven to 425F.
  2. Salt and pepper the trout inside and out and stuff each with 2 lemon slices and some thyme.
  3. Heat a large ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, over high heat and pour in the olive oil. Add the fish and cook until the skin turns golden, about 4 minutes. Flip the fish and cook for 1 minute on the stovetop before transferring he pan to the oven. After a minute in the oven, put 1 tablespoon butter on top of each trout, then continue roasting until the fish is just cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve drizzled with a bit of the pan juices alongside the parsnip hash.