Seasonal Eats: Steelhead trout campfire-style from Chef Norm Aitken, Juniper Kitchen & Wine Bar

(Photo: Brian Walter via Flickr)

(Photo: Brian Walter via Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0)

Steelhead trout is a variety of rainbow trout that makes its way up rivers and streams to the sea — or in the case of Eastern and Central Canada, to the Great Lakes — in spring and fall. Farmed steelhead are available year-round. Similar to salmon in appearance and taste, steelhead trout is ranked highly by SeaChoice as a fish that is abundant and caught or farmed sustainably.

Also like salmon, steelhead trout is good for you. Not only is it packed with lean protein, vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids, it contains low levels of contaminants such as mercury, pesticides, dioxin and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, says the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.

This recipe from Chef Norm Aitken of Juniper Kitchen & Wine Bar cures the trout and pairs it with a zesty quinoa salad and a chamomile syrup for delicious late summer dining. You can change up the vegetables according to the season, Norm says, going from spring shoots to roasted or pickled beets and adding sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

The veggies listed in the recipe were sourced from producers such as Rochon Gardens, Acorn Creek and Juniper Farm.

About Chef Norm Aitken

Chef Norm is co-owner of Juniper Kitchen & Wine Bar in Ottawa’s Westboro Village, dubbed one of the city’s top tables by food critics.

A native of Souris, PEI, Norm began his cooking career more than 22 years ago at the prestigious Inn At Bay Fortune under the guidance of Chef Michael Smith of FoodNetwork Canada fame. There he developed the understanding of and respect for fresh local ingredients that form the cornerstone of his personal cooking philosophy.

Over the course of his career, Chef Norm continually pushes the boundaries to create distinctive cuisine that’s also simple regional, seasonal and sustainable. He is passionate about delivering top-notch, house-made quality dishes that surprise and satisfy his customers. He is also committed to ensuring that Ottawa stays a vibrant culinary destination, supports camaraderie among his peers on the Ottawa food scene and believes in giving back to the community through fundraising. He has worked with some of Canada’s top chefs including Ned Bell, Vikram Vij, Susur Lee, Robert Clark, Michael Howell, and Anita Stewart and has been recognized in Gold Medal Plates and Food Day Canada competitions. ABC Good Morning America & LA Entertainment profiled him for bringing “Le Whaf” vaporizing innovation to North America from Europe.

Norm has appeared on FoodNetwork Canada’s Chopped Canada as a celebrity chef. Outside the kitchen, he’s an avid food activist, teacher, and devoted dad to daughters Jade and Erika.

Steelhead trout campfire style

Combined cooking and prep times about 1 ½  hrs

  1. Trout cure

½ c sugar

1/8 c salt

zest of 3 lemons

zest of 3 limes

zest of 1 orange

1 ½ lb cleaned trout

Season the filet generously with the cure and let stand in the fridge, uncovered, for 1 hour.

  1. Quinoa citrus salad

2 c cooked quinoa

2 oranges segmented

shaved fennel bulb

pea shoots / wild garlic leaves

wild fennel fronds (soft green leaves)

  1. Salad vinaigrette

zest and juice of 2 lemons

3/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp shallot and garlic, minced

1/8 c fine grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a lidded jar and shake until combined.

  1. Chamomile syrup

2 oz loose chamomile tea

2 c cane sugar

2 lemons, with peels, no pith

1 c white balsamic vinegar

Steep for an hour and strain.

  1. Assemble the plate

Season the skin of the trout filet with sea salt and place it in an oiled, pre-heated pan on high heat.

Turn the heat to medium and crisp the skin till golden brown.

Flip the filet over so that the flesh side is in the pan.

Cook for 2 minutes and turn the heat off.  Add a couple of tablespoons of the syrup to the pan to glaze the fish.  Let stand at room temperature for 3 min (i.e., let it rest) while you plate.

Combine all ingredients for the salad and season with the vinaigrette.

Place the salad and present the trout skin up over the salad.  Sauce the plate with the camomile tea syrup.

What’s your favourite way to prepare fish?

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