Fried Trout with Cornichon Tartar Sauce
Something about the end of summer makes me think of frying foods a little more often. Maybe I need a fix for the fried clams and french fries we eat during those trips to the beach (sadly, very under-represented these past few months). Maybe it’s some sort of reflexive reaction to the impending fall and winter, when eating lighter than beef or pork still requires a little something extra to stick to your ribs.
As with all fried dishes, the trick is to use a lot of frying oil brought up to the right temperature. If you have a home deep fryer, now is the time to pull it out from the back of that cabinet and fill it up. We don’t have that kind of cabinet real estate, so a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan filled with 1/4″ of oil does the job. That amount will give you a nice and evenly browned crust and will also not cause your kitchen to smell of fried fish for days and days. For this particular recipe, the addition of matzoh meal is the key to a hearty bite.
It’s easy enough to get the kids to eat this dish with just a few adjustments to the name. To them this dinner is “Fried Chicken-Fish with Pickle Sauce.” It goes well with the ever-present tabbouleh in our fridge. But if you have that deep fryer you might as well drop in some fries for summer’s last hurrah.
- For the tartar sauce
- 1/2 c. Mayonnaise
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 4 Cornichons, small dice
- 1 Tbsp. Capers, minced
- Juice from 1/4 lemon
- Salt & pepper to taste
- For the fish
- 2 Whole trout, cleaned
- 1/2 Tbsp. Kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. Ground black pepper
- 1 cup (minimum) of your preferred frying oil (we use peanut oil for frying)
- 3/4 c. Matzoh meal (unsalted)
- 3/4 c. Plain bread crumbs
- 2 Eggs
- 1/2 c. Milk
- Lemon wedges for the table
- Combine the mayonnaise, mustard, diced cornichons, minced capers, and lemon juice in a small bowl and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The tartar sauce will keep for several days in the refrigerator, and can be made well in advance of the following steps.
- If the fish market/counter hasn't already done so, remove the heads, tails, and spines from the trout to make 4 whole fillets. Cut each of those sides into equal portions to create 8 pieces of fish. Evenly season the fish with the kosher salt and black pepper, mainly on the flesh side.
- Begin heating your oil. You're shooting for a temperature of around 375°F, which should probably take around 5–7 minutes to reach over medium to medium-high heat. If you've got a thermometer that can handle this temperature, now is the time to use it.
- While the oil is heating, combine the matzoh meal and bread crumbs in a large bowl. Beat the eggs and milk in a second large bowl.
- Once the oil is hot, dredge a piece of fish in the crumbs mix, then submerge in the egg wash, then put it back in the crumbs mix and coat evenly. Do the same for 3 more pieces of fish, then immediately transfer them to the pan, flesh side down (the side isn't terribly important here, if you lose track). Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until nicely browned, and then carefully flip the pieces with a slotted spatula. Cook on the skin side for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, until it is also nicely browned. Remove with the slotted spatula to a plate lined with paper towels (or you can use a cooling rack if you are feeling particularly fancy; it will help to ensure the crust doesn't steam off). If you are using a deep fryer for this step, the fish is done when it is evenly browned and has started to float.
- Repeat previous step with the remaining 4 pieces of fish. It's important to cook this in two batches so that your oil temperature doesn't drop too much as you add the fish. If your oil is too cold you will be left with greasy fish. That's gross.
- Serve with a lemon wedge and a dollop of the tartar sauce, two pieces of fish per adult, one each for the smaller kiddies.
- I like to season the fish rather than the bread crumbs: you have more control over the amount of seasonings on the fish itself, and the seasonings penetrate the fish for a deeper flavor.
- You can use any mild flat fish for this recipe.
- You can use your pickle of preference in the tartar sauce, but we like the crispy bite of a cornichon.
- Any leftover cooked pieces make a great fish sandwich.
- Salt Cod Fish Cakes - […] serve these fishcakes with a dab of the same tartar sauce recipe I posted for Fried Trout a while…