Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s hatchery system produces millions of rainbow trout annually. Each spring, the rainbows are stocked into lakes, reservoirs and rivers throughout Colorado to provide exceptional angling opportunities. But did you know that CPW also works hard to improve the taste of the trout you catch in Colorado’s water system?
Two professional chefs recently prepared rainbow trout raised in four different test feed groups for a special “trout taste test” evaluation organized by CPW. The event was part of a year-long research project for which the aquatics team at Bellvue Fish Research Hatchery raised four groups of Hofer rainbow trout from fry to catchable size to determine which feeds produce better quality fish, factoring in health, conformation and taste of the fish, as well as overall feed costs.
“Our trout are a healthy food choice that Coloradans can go out and catch themselves, and this event demonstrated innovative ways to prepare fresh fish caught from Colorado waters,” said George Schisler, aquatic research chief at Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “I hope this event helped get people excited about the meals they can make and the effort we put into making sure Colorado fish are the best product they can be for our angling public.”
CPW will integrate the results of the event into ongoing research on the cost effectiveness of various trout feed products. But everyone can benefit from this tasty event immediately because the fish served were Colorado trout and both participating chefs released their recipes.
According to taste testers at the evaluation, preparation was the biggest determining factor in the selection of the best trout dish. Participants ranked Group C, raised on the basic feed from an anonymous feed producer, as their favorite for best overall taste appeal, flavor, fillet texture and appearance when pan-seared and served with a white wine cream sauce. But participants ranked the control group, provided by Whole Foods, as their favorite group when prepared a second way using a brining and smoking preparation.
You can try both recipes for yourself. Participating chefs Rocky Rigney, a former mobile restaurant chef, and Sarah Tomsic, a local caterer and nutritional coordinator for the Thompson School District, both provided the recipes they created and plated for the event below.
1. Smoked trout served over corn cakes with cilantro lime sour cream
Recipes by Sarah Tomsic
Makes 8 4-inch cakes
½ c. flour
¼ c. corn meal
½ t. baking powder
Salt and pepper
¾ c. buttermilk
1 c. corn (frozen or fresh cut from the cobb)
1/3 c. sliced green onions
¼ c. melted butter, divided
Mix together the dry ingredients. Add the buttermilk, half the melted butter and egg. Fold in the corn and green onions. Add the remaining butter to a skillet and drop the corn cake batter into the hot butter. Cook until golden, flip and cook until the center is set.
Cilantro Lime Sour Cream
½ c. sour cream
2 T. cilantro, minced fine
¼ tsp. Tabasco or favorite hot sauce
2 T. lime juice
Whisk the ingredients together and use to top corn cakes.
5 Colorado trout
1/2 c. canning salt
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 large lemon, juiced
1 t. onion powder
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. black pepper (about 10 turns of a pepper mill)
1 qt. water
Clean fish and place in a ziplock bag. Add the dry ingredients, and then pour in the water. Seal the bag, squish around so that ingredients are evenly distributed over fish. Place brined fish in a refrigerator for at least two hours and up to 24. (Our fish were brined for 18 hours.)
Drain brine from fish and rinse thoroughly. Pat fish dry with a clean dish towel and allow to air dry for about two hours until a pellicle forms on the skin. This is when the skin looks dry and almost rubbery.
Fish can be smoked in a traditional charcoal smoker, an electric smoker, or on a propane grill. (Our fish were smoked on my propane grill.) Place several handfuls of wood chips in a grill pan or in foil over one of the burners. Turn the element with the wood chips on high. When chips begin to smoke and grill has reached about 180-200 degrees F, turn the element down to low, and add the fish to the grill over the elements that have no gas. Smoke fish for approximately 2 hours, or until the meat has an internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit and is flaky.
Remove fish from smoke, allow to cool, wrap in saran and then foil. Fish can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
2. Pan-seared trout served with green beans and a white wine cream sauce
Recipes by Rocky Rigney
Ground black pepper
Pat the trout fillet dry. Rub olive oil over fillet and season with salt, pepper, basil, and lemon. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan heat butter until brown over high heat. When butter is fully melted and brown, carefully place the trout in the pan. Allow fillet to sear for roughly 3 minutes, or until the fillet is golden brown.
Green beans (cut only one side of bean at an angle for better presentation)
White balsamic vinegar (reduction)
Heat butter in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Place green beans in the pan with a drizzle of white balsamic reduction. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Stirring often, allow the beans to cook until al dente.
White wine cream sauce
Heavy whipping cream
Heat butter in a medium size saucepot. Add wine and seasonings, reduce over medium high heat. When the mixture is reduced and slightly boiling add cream, stirring often. When the sauce begins to thicken, add the cheese and stir. Turn heat to low and allow sauce to simmer for a few minutes.
Written by Alicia Cohn. Cohn is a communications specialist for CPW and is an avid outdoorswoman.