So one of us hates to cook fish (the girl one, in case anyone was wondering). Weird thing to say for someone that has a food blog. It’s not that it’s not awesome to eat, but something about the preparation and cooking is just too much. There’s all those fish scales in the sink, fishy paper towel in the bin, stinky fish on your hands. Then there’s all that washing and patting dry and putting on a plate in the fridge – a thousand potential situations for fish water to splash on your kitchen floor and bench and cupboards and dry to a stinky invisible film. Have you ever seen the opening scene of contagion where gwyneth is infected with that rare strain of bird flu and the movie follows her around while she coughs on people and touches stuff like a bowl of nuts and the flight attendant’s hand and the door handle and then other people touch the flight attendant and the bowl of nuts and the door handle then touch railings and lift buttons and their children and before you know it the whole world is a virus-contaminated cesspool and everyone’s dying? Well that’s how it is for one of us.
And then you have all those leftover fishy dishes to dispose of which you can’t even throw in the garden and hose off because then your lawn will smell like an open wound for weeks and your dog will roll in it and come inside and contaminate everything and the cycle recommences.
Cooking a whole fish, then, is a new level of terrifying. How do you know when it’s done? Is that a good fishy smell or a bad fishy smell? Is that glassiness a sign that it’s ready or a layer of pond slime you didn’t wash off properly? Why is it so slippery? Why does it have so many teeth?
In comes the boy in boyandspoon to save the day. Some people are just not that worried about mess, or stinky fish smell or global viral contamination. And it turns out fish is not complicated or all that gross – no more fiddly than cleaning mushrooms or preparing clams. Buy one that has been largely cleaned by the fishmonger, get yourself a box of disposable gloves to wear while preparing, chuck everything into a separate plastic bag on the sink as you go and throw all chopping boards and pots in the dishwasher when you’re done.
Oh, and if you got through all that and are still wondering what kind of fish we used for this recipe, read on. If you guessed it was some weird albino mutant trout, well, you would be right. The subspecies stems from just one fish that was raised in a rainbow trout hatchery in west virginia about 60 years ago. One fish. Imagine what that family tree looks like. Rather unimaginatively, it’s called a golden rainbow trout, or in france, truite dorée or truite jaune. It is easily confused (understandably as they look almost identical) with the palomino trout which is like a sub-subspecies that happened when the golden rainbow trout made babies with its normal, unmutated cousin-brother-uncle. Mutant or not, you have to admit it’s kinda pretty.
1 whole golden trout (approx 250g)
5 baby (or small) artichokes
1 cup shelled baby broad beans
100g young goats cheese
black hawaiian salt
mustard flowers, for garnish
Pre-heat the oven to 180º. Tear a length of aluminium foil about twice as long as the fish. Place the trout on the foil and gently rub all over with olive oil and season with sea salt. Fill the cavity with a few slices of lemon. Bring the long edges of the foil together and crimp at both ends of the fish. Crimp the long edges to seal the fish en papillotte. Bake in the oven for 10 -15 minutes. The eye of the fish will pop when it is ready.
While the fish is baking, half fill a bowl of water and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Don’t be afraid to add more lemon than you think you need – this is a lemon bath and it will stop the artichokes from browning while you prepare them.
Bring a small pan of water to boil. Snap off the rough outer leaves of the artichokes until you reach the softer, yellow leaves of the heart. Chop off the top centimetre or so of the leaves. Rub the exposed flesh with lemon to prevent it browning then throw it in the lemon bath while you trim the rest of the artichokes. Once trimmed, blanch the hearts for a few minutes, place in a bowl with some lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt and toss to coat. Bring a fresh pot of water to the boil. Shell the broad beans and blanch in the water for 2 minutes. Run under cold water until they have completely cooled and then remove the tough membrane.
When the fish is done, remove it from the oven and allow to cool. Carefully run a sharp knife down the spine of the trout to separate the skin from the flesh. Gently lift off the skin in as large sections as possible. Remove the flesh from the fish, making sure there are no bones. In a frypan, heat a generous amount of oil over a medium heat. Lay the skin flat in the oil and fry until crisp. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towel.
Place a generous dollop of goats cheese on a plate and arrange the trout, broad beans and artichokes over it. Snap the skin into shards and place on top. Sprinkle with black salt and some roughly chopped smoked almonds and dress with a squeeze of lemon juice and some olive oil. Garnish with mustard flowers for a bit of punch.