A most cherished memory – wading through a lake, surrounded by granite, snow-dappled peaks with summer sun beaming, casting a twinkle of copper. Cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve. That certain zen of fishing when all the world resolves into focus on the next cast, and the retrieve, and anticipation – that momentary tug, tension rising in the shoulders, flick the hands and set the hook. Keep tension on the line, the bend of the pole, the beauty of that mountain lake trout, leaping.
The source of the title above is a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Pied Beauty”. The first stanza reads:
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
Perhaps there is no fish worthy of poetry as much as the rainbow trout, with all the soft, subtle, stippled variations across such beautifully sleek skin. Trout swim naturally in many of the rivers throughout the Great Lakes region, including the brown trout on the Brule River in Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, famously fished by five sitting presidents.
Today, there are a number of commercial interests farm raising trout, leveraging of the abundant natural resources of the area. We have featured a number of different trout preparations before, though here we are using the smoked trout in a number of different recipes.
Our first featured producer is Plymouth Springs Fish Company which raises rainbow trout utilizing a natural spring, giving them precise control over their diet and limiting any outside pollutants. The have a state of the art smoking operation in Plymouth, WI, creating very tasty product. We enjoyed the smoked rainbow trout we picked up on our travels to Michigan Upper Peninsula (UP) on a salad, playing off a traditional French Niçoise salad which typically features an oil cured tuna along with the classic Niçoise olives.
Some debate whether the potatoes are authentic or a later addition, but we enjoy the heft they give the salad and they are definitely fitting in our Great Lakes Cuisine. We are substituting pickled ramps picked in the forest in the UP for the olives, and any house pickled onions would work here to add that acidic contrast to the rich, smoky trout.
We served this without the traditional green beans, and I would definitely recommend adding them if you have them fresh. Just a quick poach and then ice bath to keep them bright green with a bit of crunch. A creamy house-made dressing with plenty of dill and lemon brings it all together.
Our second dish uses the smoked trout from Rushing Waters Fisheries in Palmrya, WI, where the fish are also raised in a pond fed by an artesian spring. Thankfully, they also have a state of the art smoker. Around since the 1940s, their product is widely available, including at my local grocer.
Our recipe here is adapted from a dish made by Tom Kerridge on the U.K. cooking show, “My Greatest Dishes” (S1, Ep3) which he calls his smoked fish omelet. We’ve been doing variations on frittata for years – simply sauté some savory ingredients in a bit of oil and butter, add about eight eggs whisked with cream, them top with cheese and pop into an oven at 350F until set. Growing up, we just called that baked eggs. Of course then it was usually just a can of cream of mushroom mixed into the eggs and baked. Similar process here but Kerridge adds a bit of a twist to the topping which is quite luxurious in mouthfeel and flavor. We copied his service approach of using a small cast iron pan. Please search out Chef Kerridge’s video if you have an interest in duplicating this dish.
We begin by poaching the smoked trout in cream for 30 minutes at a low simmer, then strain the cream, reserving the trout. That cream is then used to make a basic white sauce. Set aside. Divide four eggs yolks from the whites. The whites are whipped up with a bit of cream and form the base of the omelet. Two yolks are then whipped with the trout flavored white sauce and hollandaise (but a light mayonnaise with a dash of malt vinegar also works). We’re obviously using the smoked trout here, which replaced the smoked cod in his preparation. We also chose to replace the Parmesan with something truer to our Great Lakes mission – Dear Creek’s The Stag.
A beautifully aged cheddar, with all the balance of salt and umami flavor we crave. Once the egg whites have just started to set on the bottom, we add the poached trout and top with cheese.
Then the yolk mixture is added over the top and the whole pan is placed under a broiler, or you could be fancy and use the torch like Kerridge. This rich top layer creates a luxuriously creamy texture and melts in seamlessly with the layer of The Stag cheddar, which just hints at the smokiness yet to come. The trout shines here, in all its rich smoky deliciousness. It’s smoked trout wrapped in a cloud of cheesy eggs – the blessings of the many-dappled things.
We served this in a the small single serve pan along with a multi-grain toast for breakfast, but a full pan of this would be a great crowd-pleasing dinner, served on a bed of arugula and a hearty sourdough alongside. We highly recommend both sources, whether for filets of fresh spring-fed, farm-raised trout or for the salty-sweet delight of their smoked trout. Find it, buy it, cook with it, then let us know your favorite dishes.
Oh, and those mountain trout we caught all those years ago? Cleaned them, cooked them in onions and amber beer over a campfire. I remember it as the finest fish I’ve ever eaten in my life. It could have been the company, it could have been the setting, it could be I am romanticizing the moment. But what is life, but our own story of cherished memories? Enjoy.