Cooking Class with Chef Ivan Flowers – Lesson 77 Crispy Skin Trout

The last class I told you all about knives and which ones I believe are good for the home cook. I truly hope that you all will start a knife set that you will use for your lifetime. This week’s class came from more readers. Many people go out to restaurants and order skin-on fish and love it, but when they make fish at home, they think they can’t replicate it. If you have never eaten crispy skin fish, you must try it! It is like eating a sweet potato chip. It adds a wonderful mouth feel to the fish and it also helps to keep the fish moist. This class has a recipe for crispy skin trout, but be aware that the technique for achieving the crispy skin, once learned, can be used on other fish. On thicker fillets (think ½ inch or thicker) you will want to cut slits in the skin to keep it from curling, but because the trout is a thin fillet you won’t need to do that for this recipe.

Before I get into the recipe I want to talk about what type of trout you will need for it and shopping for fish in general. When buying fresh fish here is what you need to look for: clear eyes, red gills, firm to the touch and it should smell like cucumbers. If you walk up to a fish counter and it smells like a pier, run! Now for the trout you will need to get a head on, skin-on whole fish. You also want to make sure that it is split and that it has had the pin bones removed. These are the tiny bones that are buried in the flesh. Not only are they time consuming to remove, but they are also a choking hazard.

Okay, now that you have your trout, let’s get cooking!

This recipe will serve two. You will need: one trout (as prepped above), salt, pepper, three tablespoons canola oil, ¼ cup low sodium teriyaki sauce, juice of one orange, large sauté pan and a spatula. First thing to do is heat the sauté pan over medium heat without oil for two minutes. Why heat it without oil? Because when you put cool oil into a hot pan the oil coats the bottom more evenly and you want a very even coating of oil for this recipe so you develop perfectly crisp skin. While the pan is heating, salt and pepper both the inside of the trout and the skin side. Once the pan is hot add in the canola oil and put the seasoned trout into the pan skin side down. Don’t touch it for at least two minutes. If you try to move it too early the skin will stick. After two minutes jiggle the pan to see if the trout moves, this is to insure that the skin is not sticking. After you jiggle it, let it cook for one more minute and the skin will be crisp.

Now is the time to flip the fish. Once the trout is flipped add into the pan the teriyaki sauce and orange juice. Please note, watch your liquids as you add them in; you want the liquid to just come up to the skin. You do NOT want it to cover the skin. You worked hard to get that skin crispy so you don’t want to “uncrisp” it with the sauce. The liquid will come to a boil almost immediately after you put it into the pan. Once it is at boil, remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for one minute, this will finish cooking the fish.

After the minute, use your spatula to remove the trout from the pan and place it skin side up on a plate. That’s it! The skin will be perfectly crisp and the flesh will be super moist with a fabulous flavor imparted from the teriyaki and orange.

If you are not a fan of teriyaki or orange, don’t worry, use the same technique and substitute low-sodium broths and lemon. Or try some beer and lime. The possibilities are endless.

I like to serve this fish with in season vegetables or a mixed green salad. Now that you know this technique you don’t have to go to a restaurant to enjoy crispy skin fish.

Remember, as with any technique or recipe, the most important component is the cook’s heart. The heart is what helps you create delicious meals you’ll never forget.

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