oven steamed sea trout
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Overcooked fish is one of the cardinal cooking sins. I can take not-quite-pink lamb. I can stomach overdone beef if of good provenance, and unless charcoaled. Duck is an accommodating bird – crispy Peking is as nice a thing as duck magret à point. But if you let fish cross the line between nicely flaking and stringy dry – that’s a catastrophe. Fishastrophe, even.
Salmonidae (pink fish to you and me) are particularly frequent victims of fishastrophe. Look away while grilling and your tasty, fatty salmon fillet turns into compressed sawdust. Poaching isn’t always the solution: I’ve had (or attempted to have) poached fish tasteless and dry as anything.
It is really tricky to hit the moment of doneness-yet-succulence. I can eat my salmon raw but most people will balk at translucent fish flesh. True, those people will probably not mind the desiccation but we all strive at perfection, don’t we? Moist needs, moist must.
This method makes things easier. You still need to mind the timing but the combination of low temperature and steam gets you at least halfway there. If you’re a lucky owner of an oven with moisture injection function, you needn’t faff around with hot pans and boiling water – simply set the oven thus, sticking to the temperature indicated in the recipe.
This works for salmon, trout and sea trout – the last in my experience being particularly prone to drying out. Season ad lib, brown some butter and serve with samphire – or green veg if you’re not partial to seaweed.
- 1 sea trout, filleted and skinned (about 600g for 4 people)
- olive oil
- smoked salt
- black pepper
- juice from 1 lemon
- ½ bunch fresh dill, chopped finely
- To serve:
- 200g fresh samphire
- quartered lemon
If you’re a lucky owner of an oven with moisture injection function (but not steam oven), just set the oven to the appropriate programme at 130C/250F. The rest of us proceed as below.
Rinse and pat dry the sea trout sides, and cut them into portions of about 150g per person. Preheat the oven to 130C/250F/gas ½. Arrange one rack in the top half of the oven, with another rack in the bottom half, with space enough to put a cast iron skillet or a frying pan on the lower shelf.
Pick the samphire off the toughest, woody stems and rinse with cold water. Place it in a pan with enough water to cover it.
Season the sea trout with the smoked salt and pepper, drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil and arrange on a thin baking sheet. Sprinkle half the dill over the fish.
Boil water in a cast iron skillet or a heavy frying pan and put in the oven on the lower rack; place the fish on the top rack and close the oven door immediately.
Bake the trout for 10 minutes; it will turn very pale pink. In the meantime bring the samphire to the boil, drain, return to the pan and keep warm.
Serve the trout fillets on a bed of samphire, sprinkled with the reserved dill and with the lemon quarters on the side.