Emma Frisch shares campground-friendly cooking techniques and recipes in Feast by Firelight.
On the morning of my first family fishing trip in the Italian Dolomites, my uncle took my twin sister and me with him on a 10-mile bike ride to the mountain lake while the rest of the family went by car. We straggled in at the end of the day, with him carrying our bikes over his shoulder. My mom was so relieved to see us! We had been so excited to fish that she helped us cast a few lines right away, and we each caught a trout to add to the cooler my little siblings had nearly filled. Back at the cabin, my mom cleaned and then seared the fish in a skillet with olive oil, serving them alongside a giant bowl of spaghetti. We were young, but because we helped catch the fish, we could all recognize that the trout were both a sacrifice and a gift to our table.
Although not a common practice in the United States, eating fish whole is widely enjoyed around the world. A whole fish is half the price of prepared fillets and more flavorful. The “cheek” of the fish is especially silky and tender, and not to be missed! When buying whole fish, ask your fishmonger to scale and clean it for you. Before serving, either consult an article or video on “how to fillet (or carve) and serve whole fish” or prepare to pick at the fish with a fork, dodging the bones.
- Pat the fish dry from head to tail with paper towels. Using your hands, coat each side with 1 1⁄2 teaspoons of the olive oil and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle both sides with the pepper.
- Insert the lemon slices and parsley into the cavity of the fish and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Place the fish in a ziplock bag. To prevent the lemons and parsley from falling out of the cavity, wrap the bag around the fish and hold it in place with a rubber band or masking tape and then chill for up to 24 hours.
- Wash the radishes and greens in a colander to remove any grit and then pat dry with a tea towel. In a ziplock bag, combine the radishes, garlic, 1⁄4 cup olive oil, and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. Seal the bag, use your hands to evenly coat the radishes and greens with the oil, and then chill for 24 hours.
- In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the oil is hot, place the trout in the center of the pan. (If the trout is too long for the pan, you can bend it to fit or cut off the tail section and place it alongside the body.) Arrange the radishes, their greens, and garlic around the edges, tossing to coat with the oil. Cook the fish, while tossing the radishes frequently with tongs, until the first side is brown and crispy, about 2 minutes. The radish leaves will begin to char, the radishes will pale in color, and the garlic will begin to brown. Use a metal spatula to flip the fish, being sure to scrape from the bottom of the pan so the crispy skin stays intact!
- Cook until the other side is brown and crispy, about 2 minutes more, then flip the fish again and turn off the heat. Let the fish rest in the hot pan for 3 minutes more and continue tossing the radishes. Use a thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the thickest part of the flesh is 140°F, or that the flesh easily flakes apart with a fork.
- Serve warm directly from the pan (be sure to warn your fellow campers that the pan is hot!) or transfer to a cutting board to carve the fish. Store leftovers in an airtight container or ziplock bag, chilled, for up to 3 days.
Reprinted with permission from Feast by Firelight, text and illustrations copyright © 2018 by Emma Frisch. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2018 by Christina Holmes