I should point out immediately that I'm talking about the Lake Trout you'll find in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, not the delicious speciality of Baltimore (which, for the record, is neither a trout or from a lake). Instead, this firm-fleshed fish has a pink hue that kind of reminds me of salmon. Perhaps that's why my initial thought was to cover the fillets in an Asian-inspired glaze that would crisp up in the oven. But I worried that the irregular contour of the fillets would lead to an uneven finish, not to mention a few burnt spots, so I moved on.
Not wanting to leave Asia entirely, I ultimately settled on a flavorful Vietnamese dipping sauce called nuoc mam gung—a potent mixture of ginger, garlic cloves, chilies, lime juice, sugar, and fish sauce—that tugs at your tongue in all directions. Plus, all you have to do is toss everything in a bowl and stir.
With the fish and sauce settled, I just needed a side to round out the meal. Heading back to the Midwest, I settled on some broccoli. While I normally chop off most of the stems and cook the florets, I was reminded of a great technique from Barbara Kafka's Roasting: A Simple Art, which calls for peeling the stems and then tossing them in a flavorful vinaigrette. When roasted, the stems seem to suck up their flavorful bath, coming out of the oven delectably tender. It's a great trick, and after replacing the lemon and olive oil vinaigrette with a rice wine vinegar one, I was ready to go.
You can serve the fish and broccoli with a small dish of the sauce on the sauce, or simply pour some of the sauce on top of each fillet. Either way works.
- Yield:Serves 4
- Active time: 20 minutes
- Total time:30 minutes
- 1 pound broccoli
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 6 tablespoons canola oil, divided
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 (6-ounce) fish fillets (lake trout, salmon, or other firm-fleshed fish)
- Handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
- For the Nuoc Mam Gung
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 hot fresh chilies (jalapeño, serrano, or Thai bird), stemmed, seeded, and minced
- 1-inch piece ginger, peeled, minced
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 6 tablespoon juice from 4 to 6 limes
- 4 tablespoons fish sauce
Adjust oven racks to upper middle and lower middle position. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the broccoli stems, then cut the broccoli lengthwise into 2-inch-wide pieces. Transfer broccoli pieces to a roasting pan large enough to fit them in a single layer.
Smash garlic and a teaspoon of salt in a mortar and pestle or with the back of a knife until it is a paste. Transfer to a small bowl and whisk in vinegar and 4 tablespoons canola oil. Pour this mixture over the broccoli, season with salt and pepper, and toss until evenly coated.
Transfer roasting pan to the bottom rack of oven and cook for 7 minutes. Flip the broccoli pieces with a pair of tongs and continue roasting until the broccoli is tender and a sharp knife easily pierces the stem, about 8 minutes longer. Set aside when done.
Meanwhile, season the fish fillets with salt and pepper. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons canola oil in an ovenproof skillet or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When oil starts to shimmer, add the fillets skin-side down and cook until bottom starts to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully use a spatula to move the fillets to make sure the skin isn’t stuck to the pan, and then transfer pan to top rack in the oven to finish cooking the fish, 5 to 8 minutes.
For the nuoc mam gung: Combine garlic, chilies, ginger, sugar, lime juice, and fish sauce in a small bowl. Set aside.
Serve the fish and broccoli with the sauce in a small container on the side, or spoon some of the sauce on top of the fish. If you’d like, garnish with some cilantro.