I've been daydreaming lately about going on a fishing trip, the kind of wilderness escape where my main concern for the day is sunshine, adequate cold beer, and hooking enough fish to feed me dinner. So maybe that's why I was drawn immediately to this recipe in New Classic Familiy Dinners, a cookbook by Los Angeles cooking legend Mark Peel. It is the absolute perfect recipe for sleepin' on the riverbank and cooking up the freshest river trout known to man: simple, manly, delicious.
The idea here is to use a fine cornmeal that will adequately coat the fish and give it a golden crunch on the outside. Doing so negates the need to dredge the fish in egg before dusting with cornmeal. Trout is ideal for its sweet, mild flesh, but any white fish ought to work well as long as it's not too thick (the cornmeal crust is then in danger of burning). As instructed, I used a heavy cast iron skillet, which seemed like the right tool for the job both practically and aesthetically. But I'm sure a nonstick skillet would also do the trick.
Cornmeal-Crusted Pan-Fried Trout
- 4 trout fillets, or two whole trout beheaded, scaled, butterflied, and pinbones removed
- salt and pepper as needed
- 6 tablespoons fine cornmeal
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Lemon wedges, for serving
Season the fish with salt and pepper. In a shallow bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, parsley, and 1 teaspoon salt. Dip the flesh side of the trout in the cornmeal mixture, pressing to make sure it is fully coated, dusting it by hand to create a good layer of cornmeal.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a hot pan until almost smoking, then add 1 or 2 fillets (as many as will fit comfortably) flesh side down. After 1 minute, add 2 teaspoons of butter to the pan, and watch the skin of the fish: when it begins to curl, about 1 to 2 minutes longer, turn the fish. Cook on the skin side just another 30 seconds or so, then remove to a warm oven while you cook the remaining fish with the rest of the oil and butter. Serve hot with lemon wedges.