Grilled Sea Trout with Watercress and Morel Mushrooms

Most fish have individual nuances of flavour rather than the powerful tastes of beef or game. When you are deciding whether to steam, poach or grill, consider whether the sauce or accompaniment will be too much for the fish. A sauce should either derive from the fish through its stock, or else highlight its flavour by providing a contrast. Grilling gives you a more concentrated taste that goes well with a robust flavoured sauce or vegetables which might have dominated a poached fish dish.

Salmon or sea trout grills very well. Its flavour is best if it is cooked with a fierce heat so that the skin becomes quite dark and crisp. If you fillet the fish, as I do, then cook it through the skin, not turning the flesh side towards the heat. This way the fish stays moist and the skin becomes crisp and delicious to eat. The same is true for salmon and red mullet.

This dish uses watercress and morel mushrooms to provide a contrast of flavour. Be careful not to use too much watercress, for although it gives a pretty green colour and is delicious in moderation, used in any quantity it would dominate the dish. If you cannot obtain morel mushrooms then leave them out rather than substitute button mushrooms. If you cannot get cr è me fraîche then use double cream and finish the sauce with a few drops of lemon juice.

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Ingredients

  • 1 × 2½ lb (1.1 kg) sea trout
  • groundnut oil
  • coarse sea salt
  • lemon juice

Sauce

  • 1 oz (25 g) dried morel mushrooms
  • fish bones
  • 2 fl oz (50 ml) dry vermouth
  • 2 oz (50 g) shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 fl oz (120 ml) dry white wine
  • 4new potatoes
  • 4 fl oz (120 ml) crème fraîche (or cream and lemon juice)
  • 4 oz (100 g) unsalted butter
  • 1small bunch watercress

Method

The fish

  1. Scale the fish. Use a sharp knife and work from tail to head. Clean up the mess.
  2. If you are going to fillet the trout then do so now, remembering to cut along the backbone. With a pair of tweezers pull out the line of small bones that runs along the centre of each fillet.
  3. Brush the fillets with a little groundnut oil.

The sauce

  • Soak the mushrooms in water for an hour or two. Cut them in half lengthways and wash them carefully as they often have tiny stones and grit in the middle. Boil them in a little water for a few seconds, drain and then allow them to cool.
  • If you have filleted the sea trout then wash the bones and cut them into 1 in (2.5 cm) lengths. Infuse them with the vermouth, chopped shallot and 10 fl oz (300 ml) water by bringing to the boil and allowing to cool. Strain off the liquid.
  • Add the white wine to this liquid and bring to the boil. Let it simmer until it has reduced by half.
  • Scrub and then dice the potatoes, and add to the stock. Whisk in the cr è me fraîche and bring to the boil again, by which time the potato dice will be cooked.
  • Whisk in the unsalted butter, piece by piece, incorporating it into the sauce. This should have the effect of thickening it slightly.
  • Carefully wash and pat dry the watercress. Chop it roughly and then add it to the sauce. Test for salt and pepper. If you have used double cream instead of cr è me fraîche, now is the time to add a few drops of lemon juice. Keep warm.

To Complete

  • Preheat the grill so that you will seal the sea trout as soon as you start cooking it.
  • Salt the skin side of the fish with coarse sea salt. Grill it through the skin until it is just cooked or even a little undercooked, about 10 minutes for a 3/4 in (2 cm) thick sea trout fillet.
  • Squeeze a few drops of lemon on to the fish and serve on individual warmed plates on top of the sauce.

Understanding by touch if the fish is cooked gets easier with experience. Fish cooked on the bone just won’t be filleted unless it is properly cooked, but fish cooked in fillets needs to be pressed or squeezed slightly. What you are feeling for is a springy, slightly rubbery reaction as if there were something tough or hard inside. This means it isn’t cooked and except with fish like salmon you will need a few moments more.

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