Pan fried trout is the simple taste of summer living at the lake. Add a savoury drizzle of Lemon, Garlic, and Parsley Butter and it becomes an unforgettable gourmet experience. Also included (scroll down); short videos on 'How to Clean a Fish'. (Skip to recipe.)
I'm back from the lake - two glorious weeks of laziness, sister visits, mom visit, eating, fishing, cooking, wine-drinking, saunas, mushroom picking, blackfly swatting, dog romping, fire building, bats in cabin, walks to Linda's country store, wood stacking, card playing . . . . and total unplugging (no internet or cell phone coverage in that remote corner of northern British Columbia). The first week was a girls' week, with just mom, my four sisters, and me. The second week Raymond and my brother-in-law, Sonny, joined us.
Last year forest fires ravaged our end of François Lake (luckily not touching the north side where my parents' cabin is). Huge swaths of forest were decimated. Nature has her way of housecleaning, and even through the devastation, the beginnings of new growth emerged from burned out logs. In less than a year, stunning vistas of fireweed and other wild flowers have sprung up to paint the landscape with their vivid natural colours, stark and beautiful against the black of the burned stumps.
And the burned landscape offered up another treasure for us: morel mushrooms. These wrinkled little fungi pop up in areas after a burn has cleared the land - conditions are just right for them. And we had a blast picking them. (This has been the year of morels for me - I'm in heaven.) Our neighbours, Dave and Irene, knew all the right spots to go find these delicious wonders, and we picked pails full! We laid them out on screens to dry under the gazebo. I know they will be a culinary treat all winter long.
While we were mushroom picking, I surprised a mama grouse in a tree. She let me get this close (no zoom used) because she wanted to lead me away from her babies.
My parents' cabin on the west end of François Lake is my refuge, my happy place. Although, this year its rugged beauty was sadly ravaged. Their lot is long and narrow, crossing the road to a small strip of shoreline for boat launching and water dipping. The new neighbours to the west of the cabin sadly and brutally clear-cut all the trees down on their property - towering spruce forest with beautiful mossy undergrowth is all torn up and logged. Our family cabin, which was once nestled amid that mysterious forest, is now bare on one side - exposed and naked. We will plant new trees, but these will take decades to regrow.
My sister Nancy is the fisherwoman in our family - every morning she and my mom went out to catch some trout. One of the days I went with them, we caught five trout in no time!
Time to warm up in the sauna after all that fishing.
While we were busy fishing, having saunas and drinking wine, Raymond and Sonny replaced the roof on the workshop.
It was such a glorious time. I have memories to last me til next year!
How to Clean a Fish
Here are some quick videos I took of my mom showing how to clean fish - she's had a LOT of practice and she's a whiz at it (plus; she's 82 years old and caught these fish herself just hours before I took the videos!) Warning: You may not want to watch these videos if you are squeamish.
How to Scale a Fish:
How to Clean a Fish (Remove the innards):
How to Remove the Gills from a Trout (If you plan to cook or freeze your fish with the head attached, you'll need to remove the gills, as they'll impart a bitter flavour to the fish and also make it spoil faster):
How to Remove the Head of a Trout for Pan-Frying:
So now that you know how to clean your fish, let's get cooking!
And Make Some Pan Fried Trout . . .
Dry the fish well (letting the skin air-dry for a while first makes for crispier skin). Cut off the heads (see video above) and tails if you don't have room in your frying pan, and pan-fry those beautiful trout quickly so their delicate meat is just opaque but still moist and tender. We didn't have a campfire started and were all hungry, so our trout got cooked on the stove in the cabin.
Dinner at the Lake - nothing beats it!
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For recipes and stories from previous visits to the François Lake cabin, you can read about:
- 2011: Nature's Gifts: Fresh Trout, Morels, and a Side of Bannock
- 2012: Rich Creamy Succotash (and a Trip to the Lake)
- 2013: End of Summer at the Cabin, and Bannock Biscuits
- 2014: Campfire Baked Potatoes and a Glorious Lazy Week at the Cabin
- 2015: Juniper Berry and Raisin Stuffed Porkchops Over the Campfire
- 2016: Lazyman Skillet Bannock and Cooking at the Cabin
- 2017: Cornmeal Crusted Trout, Garlic Baked Potatoes, and the Call of the Loon
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Kitchen Frau Notes: You can make the Lemon, Parsley, Garlic Butter to serve over other kinds of baked, fried, or grilled fish. It's great on salmon or any type of white fish, even scallops or shrimp.
- 2 large (14-16 inch) or 4 small fresh trout
- 1 tablespoon oil
- ¼ cup butter
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
- zest of one lemon, finely grated
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- juice of half a lemon (about 1½ tablespoons)
- salt and pepper
Clean the trout. Cut off the heads. You can scale them or leave the scales on (trout scales are small and are unnoticeable when fried.) Pat the fish dry with a paper towel. Leave the fish to lay on a plate for about a half hour to allow the skin to dry completely.
Heat the oil in a large cast iron frying pan over medium heat. Lay the fish into the pan and fry the fish until lightly browned on the bottom (3 to 4 minutes), then turn them over carefully and pan-fry the other side (another 3 to 4 minutes) until the fish is just barely cooked, but still moist.
While the trout are pan-frying, heat the butter in a small saucepan just until the foam subsides and the bits of milk-solids at the bottom of the pan start to turn golden. Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Then add the lemon zest and parsley and cook for 30 more seconds. Stir in the lemon juice and remove the saucepan from the heat. Set aside until the fish are ready to serve.
When the trout are finished pan-frying, use a large spatula to remove them to a plate. To remove the bones, grab each trout by the tail and lift the tail up a few inches. Use a fork to gently poke into the flesh under the tail and pull the flesh down toward the plate. Keep lifting up on the tail and carefully pushing the meat down to the plate so it stays all in one long piece, until the tail and attached spine are totally freed from the meat, taking all the rib bones with them. Flip the remaining half of the fish over onto the plate and repeat the process with the other side. You'll now have two fillets with the large bones removed. There may still be a row of small bones in the meat along the thickest part. These can be removed now or as you eat the fish.
Carefully transfer a fillet to each plate if the trout are large. For small fish, serve one whole fish to each person and they can remove the bones themselves, or you can do it and serve them each both halves of the fish.
Lightly sprinkle the boned trout fillets with salt and pepper to taste, and drizzle some of the warm Lemon Garlic Butter over the fish.
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