Looking for a New Lenten Recipe? Try Baked Trout

Baked trout is a delightful fish dish to try this time of year.

Left: Julian Kwasniewski holds a trout he caught. Right: Baked trout on a bed of lemons with herbs.
Left: Julian Kwasniewski holds a trout he caught. Right: Baked trout on a bed of lemons with herbs. (photo: Courtesy Photos)

The foot-long brown trout wriggled lazily as I pulled it out of the deep, slow eddy beneath the giant willow tree and placed the beautiful trout in a nearby snowbank to keep him fresh. Half of my dinner was caught!

Since I am an avid angler with easy access to streams, rivers and lakes in the Rocky Mountains, fresh trout is easy for me to come by, as long as the water is accessible. A recent melt opened the local river and made fishing possible again — even if this time I had to stand on the thick ice that still lined the river. 

That night, I baked these trout, along with some frozen ones I had caught a few months earlier. I wanted to share my recipe with readers for this Lenten season: Baked trout is a delightful fish dish to try this time of year. 

Unlike other fish species, trout has a light flavor that is not very “fishy” — children who usually dislike fish may find trout more enjoyable.

Here’s my recipe: I hope you enjoy!


Baked Trout on a Bed of Lemons With Herbs

Note on serving size: one 10- or 12-inch trout is a substantial portion; two 6- or 8-inch trout make a similar serving. This recipe works with any number and size of trout; whole trout, rather than filets, are ideal, since you can stuff them. Commercially available trout filets tend to be on the thin side and will need less time cooking.

Ingredients:

  • Some trout
  • 1 lemon per trout
  • French herb seasoning mix (substitute: thyme and rosemary)
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • 1 white or Crimini mushroom per trout
  • 2 garlic cloves per trout
  • Olive oil
  • Optional: fresh sprigs of thyme and rosemary


Directions:

If your trout were frozen, ensure that they are thawed, following any instructions on the package. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Place the trout in an oven-safe baking dish. If using fresh sprigs of spices, slide them under the fish. Cut the lemons into circular slices. Squeeze the lemon slices over the trout and then slide some of the squeezed lemon slices underneath the fish, putting two or three inside the belly of the fish.

Peel the garlic and cut the cloves in half, long ways. 

Stuff the trout with the garlic cloves. (If you are using filets, follow the instructions above, but place all the lemon and garlic pieces underneath. The skin side of the filets should be facing upward so that it gets crispy, with the bare-flesh side facing the lemons and garlic so that it absorbs their flavor.]

Slice the mushrooms and sprinkle them over the fish. Pour a tablespoon or so of olive oil over each fish. Then season with the French spice mix and with salt and pepper.

If you have whole trout in the 10-inch-or-larger size, bake for 12-15 minutes, then cover the baking dish with tin foil and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes (trout of this size will need to be baked for about 20-30 minutes in total) or until the flesh is flaky and off-white in the brown color direction rather than off-white in the pink direction. If you lift one side of the trout and look inside it, the spine should not be red or pink, but brown. You can test the fish with a fork: It should flake right off the bones, revealing the brown spine. 

For smaller whole fish, 15-20 minutes may be sufficient, but the same tests of doneness should be applied.

For store-bought filets, follow the baking instructions on the package.

Once done, serve hot! Any juice in the pan (it will be mostly lemon juice) can be spooned on top of the fish once served.

What to serve with: The baked trout pair well with a starchy side such as brown or white rice, pan-fried potatoes, or baked potatoes and with vegetables like steamed asparagus, boiled carrots, broccoli or green beans. The baked trout flavor is compatible with red or white wine. 

For those eating whole trout for the first time: Work with the fish’s anatomy, not against it! You can pull the meat right off the ribcage, up and down the fish, with your fork. Pull your fork in the same direction as the ribs, starting at the fish’s lateral line. When one side is eaten, turn over and start on the other side. Fish cheeks are perfectly edible; fins, while crispy-looking, are a bit too hard to be edible. Any bones you encounter will be small and soft: Only young eaters need to watch out for them.

Edward Reginald Frampton, “The Voyage of St. Brendan,” 1908, Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, Wisconsin.

Which Way Is Heaven?

J.R.R. Tolkien’s mystic west was inspired by the legendary voyage of St. Brendan, who sailed on a quest for a Paradise in the midst and mists of the ocean.