This week’s TBT recipe is from 2012 and is a gift from Patricia Wells. Smoked trout, tarragon, and cucumber adorned with horseradish cream. This is a universal recipe. I suppose it is intended for an August brunch, but, what the heck, you can enjoy this dish any time of day, any month through the year. It is the definition of satisfaction. And, if you haven’t really used tarragon before in your life, then plan on a life-altering experience.
Patricia Wells’ latest book, Salad as a Meal, is a read that will drive you to the grocery store. The book is filled with a diversity of salad ideas, particularly because Patricia takes a very broad view of the term “salad.”
In this recipe, she does the whole thing: starting with fresh trout, cooking them on a stove-top smoker, and then deftly combining the trout with cucumbers and an amazing horseradish cream to produce a salad so good you want it as the main course.
To save time, you can — truthfully as Suzen and I did — simply buy a smoked trout from your store. But, like Patricia, we have a stove-top smoker from Cameron and there is not a doubt that that is the way to go to achieve the “freshest” smoked flavor as possible. Patricia suggests using alder chips which will give you the mildest of smoke flavors. If you have experience with the Cameron product, then you know that by varying the type of wood you use, the amount of wood, or the smoking time, you can forge a rainbow of flavors.
The horseradish cream that accompanies this salad is, on its own, a treasure. Great as a dipping or a replacement for mayonnaise, it is appropriately tangy, never overpowering.
One secret to the success of this recipe is the contrast of cold cucumber and dressing with warm, newly smoked trout. The cold plates help maintain that temperature contract.
Home-Smoked Trout, Tarragon and Cucumber Salad with Horseradish Cream
- A stove-top smoker
- 1 tablespoon alder wood chips
- A small jar with a lid
- 4 chilled large dinner plates
Yield: serves 4
• 4 whole American farm-raised rainbow trout, cleaned and gutted
• 5 tablespoons finely minced fresh tarragon (or dill)
• Fine sea salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• ½ cup light cream
• 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
• 1 European or hothouse cucumber, trimmed and cut into thin rounds
• 4 scallions or small spring onions, white part only, trimmed, peeled, and cut into thin rings
• Zest of 1 lemon, preferably organic
Arrange the wood chips in a small pile in the center of the smoker base. Place the drip tray on top of the wood chips inside the smoker base. Arrange the wife rack top of the drip tray. Stuff the cavity of each trout with ½ tablespoon of the tarragon, and season with salt and pepper. Place the trout side by side on top of the wire rack. Slide the lid closed.
Set the entire unit on the burner over moderate heat. Counting from the time you place the smoker on the burner, smoke for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and open the lid. The fish should flake when touched with a fork. Fillet the trout and break it into small flaked pieces.
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing: In the small jar, combine the cream, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, the horseradish, and 2 tablespoons of the remaining tarragon. Cover and shake to blend.
Place the cucumbers and scallions in a large, shallow bowl. Toss with half of the dressing. Toss the flaked trout with the remaining 1 tablespoon tarragon and the remaining dressing. Arrange the cucumbers on the plates. Place the dressed trout alongside and/or on top. Garnish with the lemon zest. Serve.
Note: if ever you had the need for a chilled white wine, this is it. Take advantage of the opportunity and indulge in a treasure from Alsace or Germany.
Source: Salad as a Meal by Patricia Wells