Unlike some home cooks that will plan weekly menus (which I admit must be very handy, especially when you have kids!), I tend to grocery shop with a very vague idea of what I want to buy. Of course, in the winter months I know this usually involves root vegetables and beef to make stews like the classic bourguignon and I sometimes search for recipes that include whatever I’m currently craving. But what I like most about being in the kitchen, and grocery shopping for that matter, is taking full advantage of products that are in season, on sale or new to me. One such recent find that was both new to me in terms of cooking at home and on sale, was a beautiful, bright orange trout filet. Once cut, we had about 6 good-sized individual filets. And guess what else I found on my trip? Kumquats! I’d never cooked with those before either (I’m actually not sure I’d ever eaten them?), so I was very excited to get back home and start dreaming up a suitable recipe.
I figured the kumquats would go nicely with fish since citrus is often used alongside seafood. I found a recipe for a spicy kumquat sauce and decided on that because I love to serve salmon cooked simply with ginger and cayenne pepper, so I figured the kick would be welcome. I also know from experience that fish is always better when cooked/drizzled in lots of nutty brown butter. So this dish would have that, too. And guess what else? I had a bunch of leftover hazelnuts from my Thanksgiving extravaganza so I decided to crust the trout with hazelnuts and bread crumbs before quickly pan-frying it. I know this sounds like a lot of flavors, but I promise they all went together beautifully. The hazelnuts were the perfect contrast to the mild fish, the lemon brown butter accentuated everything, and the spicy kumquats were a nice, tart and spicy addition to every other bite.
I recommend cooking the fish with it’s skin on; this will eliminate any problems with it sticking. Even though it’s baked, some of the skin did stick to my foil-covered cookie sheet. The beauty is I was just able to slide the fish out of its skin, leaving it stuck to the cookie sheet and my trout perfectly intact.
Hazelnut crusted trout with lemon brown butter and spicy kumquats
Adapted from several recipes found on Epicurious
2 trout filets
1/4 C ground hazelnuts
1/4 C bread crumbs
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 small shallot
3 T white vinegar
1/4 t chili flakes
2 T Sugar
1/3 C water
1 T + 3 T butter
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Make the spicy kumquats first. Begin by preparing the fruit: rinse thoroughly and cut into 1/3 inch slices, removing as many of the seeds as possible. Slice the shallot in the same way. Add the shallot to a small pan over medium heat with a little bit of butter. After a minute or two, add the sugar and let the shallot caramelize (don’t stir too much). Once this is achieved, add the kumquats, water, vinegar and chili flakes. Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium-low heat until most of the liquid has evaporated and you’re left with soft, sauce-coated kumquats. Set aside.
Prepare your trout now. Take out any bones that you can and rinse and pat dry thoroughly. In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs, hazelnuts and cayenne pepper together, seasoning with salt and pepper. Heat a large pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the 3 T of butter and let it cook until it becomes brown butter, probably about 10 minutes. Once the foam subsides, watch it carefully, stirring often, and remove from heat as soon as you see brown bits forming on the bottom and it begins to smell extremely fragrant. Pour out most of the butter and reserve, leaving a little bit in the pan for searing the trout.
Press the flesh of the trout filets into the breading mixture then turn over and continue pressing the breading into the filets, coating them as well as possible (flesh-side only!). Once your pan is nice and hot, add the filets, breading side down, and cook for 4-5 minutes until the breading begins to brown. Watch out for burning bread crumbs! Now you’ll need to very carefully turn them over so that the skin side is facing down. Using a spatula, gently turn them over taking care to keep as much of the breading on as possible. Now reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes longer, until the fish is warmed through and cooked to your liking. Remove from pan and keep warm in the oven while you make the sauce. Simply add the brown butter you made earlier to the pan, heat through and add about 1-2 T lemon juice, a pinch of zest and a tablespoon of the ground hazelnuts. Mix lightly and pour over the fish, serving the kumquats on the side (or right over top).