Dinner Tonight: Pan-Seared Trout with Garlic and Basil

The other day at the fish counter, where I'd gone to buy a fillet of salmon, I found myself confused by my options. The salmon I'd planned to purchase looked a little less than fresh, so I decided to pass. Scattered around it on the bed of ice, though, were two glistening fillets that had a rich, pink-colored flesh, labeled arctic char and steelhead trout. I bought the latter and set out to learn more about it.

Though some species of trout have a light-colored flesh with a mild, sweet flavor, others, like steelhead, are richer and salmonlike. They are also more sustainable than the more famous pink-fleshed fish. The recipe I chose, from The Splendid Table's How To Eat Supper, was meant for salmon but easily adapted. Originally served on a bed of greens and snap peas, I switched it out for wilted spinach and snow peas. But it's the garlicky wine pan sauce, fragrant with basil, a rich dressing for the greens, that's the star. The whole thing is finished with a squeeze of lemon juice.

About the author: Blake Royer founded The Paupered Chef with Nick Kindelsperger, where he writes about food and occasional travels. He is currently living in Tartu, Estonia, for the year.

Dinner Tonight: Pan-Seared Trout with Garlic and Basil

About This Recipe



  • 4 steelhead trout, arctic char, or salmon fillets (or steaks)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large garlic cloves, sliced thinly
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 3 ounces fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/4 pound snow peas


  1. 1

    Rinse the fillets and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper, then heat a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat with the olive oil. Sear the fillets for a minute on each side.

  2. 2

    Scatter the garlic and basil leaves around the fish, turn the heat to low, cover, and continue cooking about five minutes or until the fish is close to cooked through. Turn the fillets midway through cooking.

  3. 3

    Remove the fish and keep warm. Add the wine to the skillet, turn the heat to high, and scrape up any brown bits. Reduce until beginning to get syrupy. Add the spinach and snow peas and toss with the sauce, until the spinach is well-wilted.

  4. 4

    Serve the fish on the bed of spinach topped with a squeeze of fresh lemon.


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