Today was supposed to be a day off from running or lifting but sometimes you just know it’s best to go ahead and put on your favorite running shoes, put your favorite song list on the iPhone, and get it done. It feels better to do it than not.
My nature is not that of a runner. It goes against everything I can think of about myself. But I have been and with consistency. Some days it is much harder then others but running is always better then not running at all.
There is something special about trout that goes beyond just eating. They are one of only fish that have a whole culture built around them. They are a freshwater game fish, they are skittish and will jump at their own shadow. They only thrive in cold water and need lots of oxygen provided by a stiff current. When they feed they feed only on what is abundant at the moment. Wild trout make for difficult prey.
In the high altitude lakes of the Grand Tetons you are likely to catch cutthroats the size of your hand while watching the sunrise in, hands down, one of the most beautiful places in the world. When you get back to camp you cook them up for breakfast with pancakes and eggs.
On the other hand you might spend the afternoon in the Catskills on the banks of the Beaverkill reading Hemingway or Fitzgerald. Legendary fisherman like Lee Wulff and Lefty Kreh coming to mind as you are thinking about the evening fish and having high hopes for a Green Drake hatch. You might even doze off for an hour.
Then just as the evening hours begin you pull on your waders and out into the rushing stream you go. It doesn’t seem like hard work from the shore but standing in rushing water up to your midsection takes effort. You wrestle the current to get to the spot you want. You look down at the water to see if there are any bugs floating by that might give you an indication of what the fish are eating tonight. You light a cigar and smile.
You see the transparent wings of a pale evening dun float by. You reach into your fly box and pull out a number 20. The fly you saw go by didn’t seem any bigger. You tie the fly to the tippet. You drop the fly into the water and strip out some line.
You draw back the rod in a gentle sweep and the fly draws past your ear and then you rocket it forward aiming upstream of an eddie that lies just behind a big rock. You watch as the fly floats downstream, you gather excess line, and as it passes the eddie you hope you hear and see a strike as a rainbow trout breaks the surface grabbing your fly. If you had a good night and matched the hatch you will be in camp cooking up a couple of nice rainbows for supper but only after a nice Scotch.
2 trout, boneless 12 to 16 oz.
4 pieces prosciutto, thinly sliced
a handful of sage leaves
1/4 cup grape seed oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1/4 cup pine nuts
kosher salt and fresh ground white pepper
cornmeal for dredging
1. Season the inside of the trout with salt and pepper. Carefully lay out two pieces of prosciutto letting the long side overlap by 1/4 inch. Lay a trout across the short sides of the prosciutto and wrap it in the prosciutto.
2. Heat a 14 inch skillet over medium high heat. Dredge the trout in cornmeal and shake off any excess. Add the oil to the pan. Sprinkle in the half of the sage leaves and let them deep fry. when they have crisped remove them from the pan.
3. Gently lay the trout into the pan, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the pancetta is crisp and caramelized, about 5 minutes. Gently turn the fish cooking the other side. It will take about ten minutes total for the fish to cook through so be patient and adjust the heat as necessary.
4. When the fish are done remove them to their plates. Drain the oil and put the pan back on the heat. Add the butter, the pine nuts and the remaining sage leaves. When the nuts have toasted spoon some of the pine nut sage butter over the top of the fish. Serve
One of the things I like best about the French dish Hachis Pamentier is the looseness of the recipe. Unlike Shepard’s Pie which connotates lamb as the central ingredient Hachis Parmentier quite often simply lists chopped meat and then leaves it to your discretion. So anything on hand, usually cooked, usually leftovers which is generally combined with Sauce Lyonnaise.. Then add potatoes, again, mashed, leftover bakers or boiled, pretty much anything you can crush with a fork.
In my book anything Lyonnaise is good and more likely great. The reality, though, of most classic French sauces is, who has demi-glace on hand and who is going to make it for this dish? Not many home cooks do, nor should they. So if you take the base ingredients of the sauce minus the demi-glace you have a vinegar based dressing. In other words something to cut into the richness of the meat and potatoes and a simple balsamic dressing does this just fine.
The reason I chose salmon for this version is it doesn’t need to be cooked before hand. You can put it right into the ring molds raw to be cooked in the oven. Salmon has enough natural collagen that it will bind on its own, no mayonnaise, no egg, no nothing.
What I have tried to do here, and I think with great success, is make a family style dish into something worthy of a fancy sit down dinner and even the main course to a dinner party. You can make the individual servings ahead of time (hint: my ring molds are water chestnut cans with both ends removed, cheap and simple) by putting the molds onto a parchment lined sheet tray, then layering them with the ingredients, covering them and storing them in the fridge.
On the other hand, you needn’t invite anyone for dinner to make this dish it is just as delicious for two as ten and if you want family style just chuck the whole ring mold idea and use a large gratin.
1 pound salmon, skin removed and cubed into 1/4 inch chunks
1/2 cup celery, finely minced
1 teaspoon capers, minced
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, finely zested
1 teaspoon dill, minced
1 teaspoon chives, minced
1/2 cup comte or Gruyère cheese, grated
3 potatoes, sliced into 1/8 inch or thinner rounds
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
a handful of arugula leaves, rinsed and dried
1/2 teaspoon Dijon
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Place the potatoes, garlic and milk into a medium size pot. Add enough water to cover the potatoes by an inch. Add a teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Place the pot over medium heat and slowly bring it to a boil. Cook the potatoes until just tender, being especially careful not to cook them to mush but if you do don’t get you undies in a bundle they will still cook and taste the same. Drain the potatoes.
2. If you plan to cook the dish now heat the oven to 375˚ F.
3. Place the salmon, celery, capers, lemon zest, dill and chives into a mixing bowl. Add 3/4 teaspoon of salt and some fresh ground white pepper and mix the salmon being sure to incorporate all the ingredients and evenly distribute them throughout.
4. Place a piece of parchment paper onto a sheet tray. Place four ring molds onto the tray. Lightly butter the interior walls of the molds and then divide the salmon mixture into four equal portions and pat firmly/gently it into the molds.
5. Taste a potato testing for salt content. Take the potato slices and fan them into the top of each mold making two to three layers. If the potatoes were salty enough when you tasted them then don’t season them anymore but if the need it season each layer with a pinch of salt and pepper. Top with a little cheese and a spritz of olive oil. Bake in the heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.
6. While the salmon is baking combine the mustard and balsamic adding a pinch of salt and a grind or two of pepper. Then add the oil and mix to combine.
7. When the salmon is done remove it from the oven. Using a spatula and a dry towel remove each mold to a plate placing it in the center. Using a paring knife run it around the edges to loosen the salmon. Gently hold down on the potatoes with a spoon as you lift the mold.
8. Toss the arugula with the dressing and top each hachis parmentier with a bit of greens. Serve with a crisp fruity white wine.