what to do with a wiggling fish

Fresh Trout with Caper Sauce ~

So, I can’t wait to figure out how to upload photos, because I have some great ones of the dinner I made tonight.  (And by “I,” I mean John took some great photos.  Once upon a time, I fancied myself a photographer.  After lunch and a long afternoon at a country cottage in England, my parents found themselves in possession of many rolls of film of mediocre pictures of a flower garden.  You live and you learn, right?)

Here’s how this whole thing went down.  Our neighbors gifted to John and myself some fresh trout.  If there’s something that a green cook such as myself finds intimidating, it’s fresh trout.  Just an FYI.  I mean, the fish was wiggling a little in the bag when John deposited it in the sink (it probably wasn’t, but I’m still convinced the little guy was fighting a lost battle).  I tip-toed over, glancing over the edge, afraid that the little fishy eye would see me, and I would be it’s last searing image before closing forever.

I procrastinated.  I wrung my hands.  I googled ‘gutting fish.’  I realized that this whole fish thing was going to be a bigger undertaking than I felt I was willing to make.  I picked up Delia Smith (she’s very comforting in her no-nonsense style) and paged through.  Did Delia teach a person how to gut a fish?  Cook a trout?

Of course she did.

I picked her caper sauce, because it had the least amount of ingredients, and because John’s mother gave us jars and jars of capers, and I was pretty sure it would take us a long time to use them all.  I diligently went about whisking the olive oil and juice of a lemon (truth be told, I used lemon juice out of a bottle ~ I soothed my ego by reminding myself that all the greats used substitutions at some point … right?).  I conveniently forgot about the minced garlic (we didn’t have it).  I dried and chopped the capers.  I ground the salt and pepper.  And as Delia instructed, I set the whole shebang aside to allow the flavors to develop.

This meant that now, I had to confront the fish in my sink.

Delia, in her comfortingly direct way, let her readers (me) know in no uncertain terms that the fishmonger should at least gut your fish for you.  As I tentatively reached into the plastic bag and withdrew the first of two trout, I was relieved to find the thin slit down its belly.  Imagine my relief at not having to clean out fish guts.  Immense.  My confidence building, I rinsed both fish off, inside and out, and then lay them on the cutting board.  The heads would have to go.

And … I began to procrastinate again.  I imagined the crunching feel of pressing the knife through the delicate bones at the base of the fish’s heads.  I believe that I visibly shuddered.  I checked my caper sauce.  Yup.  Still there.

In the end, John had to decapitate the fish.  And in the end, the fish was a triumph.  I’ll let you in on my secret.  Pick the quickest cooking method, with the least amount of ingredients.  In my experience, simple usually trumps.

What I did:


2 fresh trout, gutted (and without heads, but with tails and skin still intact)

2 Tbsp butter

Salt & pepper (to taste)

For Delia’s sauce (my style):

4 tbsp capers

4 tbsp olive oil

juice of one lemon (or, a nice dollop of lemon juice out of a bottle)

garlic powder

salt & pepper to taste


1.  Combine olive oil, lemon juice and a sprinkle of garlic powder.  Whisk with a fork until combined.

2.  Pat capers dry.  Coarsely chop them (or pop them in the food processor and swirl them around a bit)

3.  Combine chopped capers with olive oil and lemon.  Add salt &  pepper to taste.

4.  Put aside.

For the fish:

1.  Wash it out.  Pat it dry.

2.  Melt butter in large saucepan on medium to medium-high heat.  Add salt & pepper to taste.

3. Cook fish in butter for approximately 2-4 minutes per side (the flesh will turn white ~ and it happens fast, so make sure you’re paying attention!).

I know.  Amazingly simple.  But a triumph, Mrs. Cratchit!

We had a nice Caprese salad ( I was craving corn, but if you’d seen John’s face at the mention of fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, you’d have made a Caprese, too) and pull-apart bread.  That, my friends, is a recipe for another day.

(I would like to note that the knives are not set properly in this picture and it drives me nuts, but I can’t change it, so, it is what it is.  But technically, their blades should face the other way).

I’ll say this ~ being confronted with a cooking challenge definitely intimidates.  But making something edible feels incredible.  So cheers to our neighbors, who helped me confront cooking fresh fish.  I DID IT!  Is there anything you’ve recently conquered in the kitchen?  Tell me about it!

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