In Around the Fire, Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton explore the many ways of cooking with fire that come into play in their Portland restaurant Ox.
Smoke is famously good with trout, and this preparation takes advantage of that. This particular whole fish can also be a good gateway if the idea of whole fish freaks you out: Most seafood shops and grocery counters sell trout already gutted and deboned, so you can enjoy all of the drama of presenting a whole fish but without the messiness of the guts or paranoia about swallowing bones.
Primarily the pleasure of a whole trout or any grilled whole fish is the bronzed, crispy skin. Done properly, the skin takes on the texture of a thin, well-done slice of bacon and a little of its saltiness, too—a nice contrast to the tender, mild-flavored flesh. We balance out the richness of the skin with plenty of lemon, some briny capers, and fresh herbs.
It is very important that you have all the ingredients for the recipe prepped in advance and at the ready beside the grill, since the fish takes just a few minutes to cook.
- Put the potatoes in a small pot and cover with water; season with salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer the potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well and let cool enough to handle. Slice into 1⁄4-inch rounds, then chill.
- Prepare a grill to high heat. Preheat a cast-iron pan or any pan that can withstand high heat from the grill by placing it directly on the coals or over the hottest area of the grill.
- Meanwhile, using paper towels, pat away any excess moisture from the trout. Brush the outside and inside of the cavity with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Close the fish cavity.
- Add the animal fat to the preheated pan, then add the fish. Cook until browned on one side, 3 to 4 minutes. Gently flip the fish using a metal spatula. Add the potatoes and capers (removing the pan from the heat and then returning it to the heat, if needed). Cook until the potatoes have started to brown, 3 to 4 minutes more. Squeeze the lemon into the pan, then add most of the parsley and all of the marjoram.
- Remove the fish from the pan and transfer to a platter or two plates; divide the potatoes and capers between the plates. Taste the pan juices and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Spoon it generously over the fish. Garnish with the remaining parsley leaves.
Reprinted with permission from Around the Fire: Recipes for Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting from Ox Restaurant by Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton, with Stacy Adimando, copyright © 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.