Saturday, July 20, 2013

Apricot-braised Trout

In honor of apricot season, here is something you might want to do with a bunch of extra apricots -- braise fish in them! Trout is not the mildest of fish, but the other flavors in this dish, particularly the cloves and braised apricots, combine to impart an almost meaty quality. The spices add body and complexity to the sauce. A lesser fish might be lost in the fray.

I had leftover fresh baby fennel from the weekend that I wanted to use, but I'm on the fence about it here and I think the dish might work just fine without it. Don't get me wrong -- it was very good, but I wouldn't have fresh baby fennel air-dropped from Lebanon just so you can make this.

The fish are braised whole. However, you should consider removing the bones and spine while they are raw, as the braised meat is very soft and more difficult to separate from the bones than a roasted fish would be. Please save the bones (and heads) to make stock (or send them to me -- I have an idea for an improved fish popsicle).

For cookware all you will need is a skillet with a reasonably well-fitting cover for your preferred braising method. I like to braise on an induction cooker, which won't heat up your kitchen in the summer as much as an oven or gas burner.

Kneeless Apricot-braised Brook Trout

  • two brook trout (approximately 1 pound each), whole, cleaned and scaled
  • flesh from four or five apricots, cut into wedges
  • one stalk of fresh baby fennel (use the white portion, compost the greens)
  • onions
  • 1-2 tsp salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 2 pats of butter (1/4 stick)
Spice mix:
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • pinch of ground cayenne pepper
  1. in a skillet, sauté onion and cloves in butter until the onions brown slightly
  2. add fennel and sauté until soft
  3. add spice mix and continue to sauté. Spices will darken slightly and start to form a paste
  4. add apricots and trout, salt to taste, and grind black pepper on top
  5. add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water (some more will come out of the apricots), cover, and braise on low heat until fish is cooked through (30 minutes should do it but don't worry if you go a bit over)
Kneeless Apricot-braised Trout

I consulted professional wine consultant Shana Reade and she provided the following suggestions.

My first inclination would be to suggest a Alsatian Gewürztraminer. They are typically fruity, floral, and a bit spicy. I always taste clove in the good ones, so that would pick up that note in the fish nicely. It's also a bit of a heftier wine, so wouldn't be overwhelmed by the richness of the trout. Sidebar: this wine might be the flavor you are looking for in the cod pops instead of using dextrose. I will see if I have a bottle laying around the office. 
Some people are put off by any sort of residual sugar (when fermentation is stopped prior to the yeast consuming all the sugar in the grapes, so there will be more sweetness) in a wine, and Alsatian Gewürz's might have a touch in addition to already having lush tropical fruit flavors, so the dry wine fans might like a Chenin Blanc from the Loire. The two main appellations are Savennieres or Vouvray. Both would work, but Vouvray is made with varied levels of residual sugar, and they are really bad about telling people that on the label, so I think a Savennieres is the way to go, and it's awesome. It's usually a bit funky and yeasty, but mineral driven with touches of honey, and sometimes tastes a bit like wool or lanolin, but in a good way?

Now when you said esoteric, this wine came to mind (Movia Rebula). I don't think the description gives justice to how neat this wine is. It's almost an orange tinge, and seems racy and rich at the same time, and kind of like drinking a bouquet of dried flowers.
And even though this is probably going on far longer than you anticipated, for the red fans, I think a Beaujolais cru would be perfect. Beaujolais got a bad reputation for their Beaujolais nouveau, which uses a type of fermentation that produces a wine that tastes like bubble gum and banana bread. But there are 10 little villages, or crus, that make a lighter style red, with a firm but not aggressive structure, typically with a nice balance of fruit and earthiness.

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