Knowing how to cook fresh fish perfectly over an open fire is a great skill to master.
The delicate meat of freshly caught trout easily takes on flavor from any spices you add and wood smoke over which you cook it. When gathering wood for the fire, alder, mesquite, and oak are good choices. Avoid resinous wood like pines and juniper because they may impart a turpentine-like flavor to the fish. Once you have an even bed of hot coals, you’re ready to cook. If you’re more interested in fishing that cooking, check out this story of gila trout in New Mexico.
- 1 whole trout dressed
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Kosher or truffle salt
- Heat a griddle or cast-iron pan on top of your campfire, or weave a platform out of green willow or mesquite branches. Suspend the wooden platform or griddle cooking device on the rocks comprising the fire ring, about 6 inches above the heat.
- A cast iron pan can be set directly on the coals. Coat the dressed fish, inside and out, with olive oil, and place 2 or 3 lemon slices in the cavity. (It is best to keep your trout whole, especially if using a handcrafted platform, so it retains moisture and is more maneuverable.) If possible, slightly tilt the fish belly up to keep moisture in the cavity. Cook time will depend on variables such as fish size, heat intensity, distance from heat, and weather, but 4–8 minutes per side for fish 14 inches or fewer is a good rule of thumb. When the flesh on the bottom side is flaky, it is ready to flip. After cooking both sides, you can easily peel the skin back and pick the meat off one side.
- Remove all the bones at once by gently lifting them out in one piece from head to tail. This technique works best if you keep the fish moist and avoid overcooking. Garnish the fish with fresh cracked pepper, kosher or truffle salt, and lemon, and enjoy your fresh-caught meal.
*This recipe was originally published in Edible New Mexico.