Smoked fish is on the top of my list of holiday appetizers. Smoky, meaty, sweet trout plays well with all sorts of different tasty beverages, and is the perfect complement to a holiday cocktail party, wine tasting, or a just a couple of good beers with friends. It’s easy to make at home, tastes better than store-bought, and will impress your guests. What more can you ask for?
I like to serve it chilled, with crackers, red onions, capers, and sour cream. But smoked trout is not just an appetizer; served warm, it can me the main course; leftovers make the base of a smoked trout spread.
Now, this trout takes a little planning ahead; it needs to brine for a few hours, and then smoke for at least a half an hour on the grill. That’s OK – I work around that by making it way ahead; smoked fish can be made up to two days ahead of time. It tastes great cold, straight out of the refrigerator, or at room temperature, if it has time to warm up.
One more thing – usually, when I cook fish, I want medium-rare to medium doneness – just the slightest hint of translucence in the middle. Not with smoked fish – I want to cook it all the way through, filling it with smoky flavor. That’s another advantage to this recipe – the cooking time is very forgiving.
Recipe: Grill Smoked Trout
Inspired by: Steven Raichlen, How To Grill
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Grill (I love my Weber kettle)
- Fist sized wood chunk or 1 cup wood chips (oak and hickory are my favorite wood flavors)
- 2 trout, filleted
- 1 quart water
- 2 tablespoons table salt (1/4 cup kosher salt)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
Accompaniments for appetizer style trout
- Paper thin sliced red onions
- Sour cream
1. Brine the trout
In a large bowl, stir salt and brown sugar in the water, then wait for the salt and sugar to dissolve, about five minutes. Add the trout fillets and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to 8 hours. While the trout is brining, soak the smoking wood in water.
2. Set the grill up for indirect medium-low (300°F)
Set the grill up for cooking on indirect medium-low heat. For my Weber kettle, I fill a chimney starter half full of charcoal (about 50 coals), light it, and pour it in a tight pile on one side of the grill. Then I drain my wood chunk and put it on top of the charcoal.
3. Grill smoke the trout
While the grill is preheating, take the trout out of the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Double up a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil to use as a tray, a little wider than you need for all four pieces of trout, and lay the trout fillets on the foil skin side down. Carefully move the foil tray of trout to the grill, as far away from the lit coals as possible. Take the smoking wood out of the water and add it to the coals. As soon as the wood starts smoking, close the lid of the grill. (If you have a kettle grill, rotate the lid so the top vent is directly over the trout, which pulls the smoke over the fish.) Cook with the lid closed until the fish is thoroughly cooked and browned from the smoke, 30 to 45 minutes.
Remove the foil to a sheet pan, tightly cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until it is time to serve, up to three days. To serve, scrape the fillet away from the skin with a spatula, transfer to a serving platter, and serve with the accompaniments.
- Why aluminum foil? Because it’s easier to get the smoked fish on and off the grill that way; there’s no chance of sticking.
- If you’re serving straight from the grill as a main course, skip the foil; wipe the grill grate clean with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil, then lay the fish directly on the grate, skin side down.
- And…is it fillet, or filet? I’m going with fillet; I think of filet as a cut of beef from the tenderloin (filet mignon), and fillet as the deboned side of a piece of fish. (as in fillet o’ fish. Wait…bad example.)
What do you think?
Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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