Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Trout tickling and a tarragon mayonnaise

Freshly caught Brown Trout

"So far though, the trips have been frustrating and the fish have not been as cooperative as I'd have liked. But, like Robert the Bruce, these setbacks will not deter me and I will persevere!"
As much as I would like to claim credit for catching the tasty trout picture below, my blogger's integrity demands that I tell the truth, and it was my sainted Father who went fishing on Sunday and returned bearing gifts. I've been fly fishing with him quite a few times and I think it is something I could and should enjoy. So far though, the trips have been frustrating and the fish have not been as cooperative as I'd have liked. But, like Robert the Bruce, these setbacks will not deter me and I will persevere!

Given that this was a sunny bank holiday weekend, obviously it had to be barbecued. This is a great way to cook fish, and as an added incentive to all that salty and crispy fish skin, it doesn't require much in the way of skill or preparation beforehand. I did think briefly about cooking a classic french dish, Truite au Bleu, which involves sprinkling a very fresh trout with vinegar and then cooking it whole in a court bouillon. Apparently the effect of the vinegar on the slime / mucus which covers the fish is to turn it blue, hence the name. Although this doesn't sound wholly appetising (isn't there some urban myth about humans having an in-built mistrust of all blue coloured foods), it is said to be a classic accompaniment to Alsatian and German Riesling, which I am a big fan of, so will have to try it at some point.

And so to the barbecuing we return. As you can see this fish did not come from the fishmonger, and so it required some preparation. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not someone who relishes getting knee deep in fish innards, but the gutting of this particular trout was not that unpleasant at all. Because it was so fresh, there was no characteristic "fishy" smell, which seems to put many people off eating fish. To gut and clean out the trout all I did was make a slit up through its belly, then pulled out the guts, before rinsing the whole lot under the tap. You want to make sure you get rid of all the blood inside as this can be very bitter if you happen to eat it. I also cut out the gills and all the fins using a pair of scissors. When finished you will be left with a nice clean fish ready for the grill. 

Apologies to those of a squeamish disposition

After this has been done, all you need to do is season the fish inside and out before putting it on the barbecue to cook...and you're right it does look delicious!

Whilst it is nice to eat the fish with just some salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice, I decided to make a tarragon mayonnaise to go with it. It was very simple to do and so much nicer than even the poshest of bought mayos, so well worth a go. Tarragon is possibly my favourite herb and I love its slightly astringent, anis flavour; it goes really well with fish and poultry and is an essential ingredient in quite a few classic recipes, including Bearnaise Sauce and the French dish Poulet a l'Estragon.

Tarragon Mayonnaise:

1 egg yolk
1 tsp dijon mustard
Approx. 300ml rape seed oil (you can use olive oil if you prefer)
1 handful chooped tarragon
lemon juice (or tarragon vinegar if you have it)
salt and pepper
  1. First off whisk together the egg yolk, mustard and a little of the lemon juice or tarragon vinegar in a fairly large and sturdy bowl. Then lightly season with the salt and pepper.
  2. Now whisking constantly (I wimped out and used an electric whisk, but you can use a hand one or do the whole thing in a food processor), add a couple of drops of the oil into the egg and mustard mixture.
  3. When this has been fully combined you can add a few more drops (still whisking obviously). Repeat until the mixture starts to thicken and look a bit like a mayonnaise.
  4. When it has reached this stage you can begin to add the oil in a thin, steady stream. Do this until you have a thick, glossy and almost sunflower yellow mayo.
  5. If you taste it now it will be very rich, so add more of the lemon juice to cut through some of the richness and also to thin it down a bit. The acid in the lemon juice can make the mixture split, so do this carefully, again stirring or whisking all the time.
  6. Then add the chopped tarragon, check again for seasoning and you're good to go.
There seems to be some myth that making this type of emulsified sauce (mayonnaise, hollandaise etc) is tricky, but it isn't at all, you just have to be careful when adding the oil and make sure you do it very slowly at the start of the process. It is much easier with an electric mixer, but is still fine to do the old fashioned way (if you have strong wrists).

Finally, Gastrolad's (interesting?) fact of the day. It is generally accepted that mayonnaise is named after Port Mahon, the capital of Minorca. Apparently it was made to celebrate the capture of the island by the Duc de Richelieu in 1756, so whilst it is named after a Minorcan town, it remains a French invention.

No comments:

Post a Comment