The troops have been hankering for rainbow trout, so we had them today. I picked up four fish (cleaned) at Costco and served them whole. This is an easy dish to make and delicious but it can be a mess if you don’t have a large griddle or sauté pan since the head and tail will hang over the edges and flour will get all over. Wash and dry the fish well on the outside but only slightly on the outside, salt the inside and then dredge in salt and peppered flour. I use a half sheet pan for this and leave them on there until they go into the pan. Get out your largest stick-free sauté pan and heat up some olive oil. When it’s nice and hot but not an inferno, put in a knob of butter. Gently lay in a fish and brown it — watching the heat so it does not burn. Turn it over with long tongs after about 5 minutes and brown the other side. Slide a large spatula (a commercial one is good for this kind of thing) under the fish and move to an oiled sheet pan, leaving room for any others you want to put on there. Do not use the tongs to take the fish out of the sauté pan because it will break. Before you fry another fish make sure the oil in the sauté pan is not burned. If it is, pour it out and wipe with a paper towel when cool enough and start with fresh oil and butter. When you have all your fish on the sheet pan place in a 375 F. convection oven and bake for 15 minutes – if you have fish that are about a pound or so each. If you have small fish you’ll need very little bake time. Apply good judgment here. If you have a sauté pan that is able to house a couple of fish with no overhang, there is no reason to finish them in the oven. After you turn the fish over and brown side #2, simply turn down the heat, tent some foil over the pan, and cook for 10 minutes or so and serve. I find this recipe the best since this is a mild fish and you want to bring out its goodness without a lot of overpowering ingredients. We eat them with a squeeze of lemon. The bones are not too bad on a rainbow trout, but try to eat any whole fish by sliding the meat down from the backbone on the side facing you. When done with that side, pull off the entire backbone and eat the side left on your plate. There is a little meat you can get from the tail, and be sure to eat the cheek meat and whatever else you can find in the head before you discard it. The skin is the best part of a fried trout – enjoy it! Debone meat for your smaller kids, but know that if you get them used to this kind of preparation they won’t know from a fish stick and this is what they’ll want when they get older. While there is no one, but no one, who is as good with fish bones as my mother, my son, Matthew, now 21, can hold his own because he has been eating whole fish all his life.
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