Category Archives: fishing

Catch of the Day: Trout in Ham Recipe


I don’t know what pushed us to go ice fishing few week-ends ago, but it wasn’t a common sense. But it made a good story, so I guess it was worth it anyways. Although very cold, the morning was bright and shiny and promised all kind of fun nature adventures. Doggy, the house astrologer was giving us her blessings…
When we arrived at Phillipsburg, it was minus thirty in Celsius, windy (which translates into minus forty five with the wind chill factor) and unbelievably humid because the day before was much warmer. The man on duty at Activités Plein Air with lobster-red face and neck briefly explained the rules of serious ice fishing and handed us a can of worms (greeting bonus for the ice fishing newcomers). ‘Go check your place and tell me when you’re ready,’ he said chewing cigarette roach and waving to the few cabins (cabane à pêche) available, so we could take a pic before parting with Canadian $75.00. ‘Is it biting well?’ – we inquired. ‘Keeps us pas mal busy, he replied. Perhaps he was talking about his liver, I don’t know. He had a breath of the United Distillery although it was just little past the afternoon. I realized we didn’t bring any alcohol, just a six-pack of Blanche de Chambly, which sounded more like a joke in this weather condition. What were we thinking? This kind of adventure calls for some hard alcohol, like the 120-proof Jamaican rum that can curl your nose hair just by looking at it. I also realized I should have put three pairs of pants instead of two, brought snow goggles, covered the rest of my face with Vaseline and wrapped the rest of my body in extra wool and feathers…
It was around half-mile to get to the nearest free cabin walking over the frozen lake. By the time we did with our back packs and fishing gear, I couldn’t take pictures anymore because my fingers went numb. So felt my camera – the buttons froze and were not working. The shack was empty, dark and cold: we had to go back to buy and bring some fire wood to start warming it up. The neighbor within few meters flung his cabin door open to take a loud steamy piss disregarding us as if we were some kind of uninvolved bystanders stoned as much as him by that point of the day. He then gulped some moonshine from a plastic water bottle and vanished back into his cabin. Although many shacks have been already rented, we’ve seen no fish caught around and heard no screams of excitement. Everything was dead silent, steamy cold and wild.
In less than 15 minutes I felt like I’ve been ice fishing for a century. I might even have taken this image a hundred years ago in Gilford, Ontario, except I absolutely wouldn’t want to be that person…
The landscape reminded me of ‘The Red Tent’ vintage movie my parents used to make me watch as a toddler for like thousand times because they liked it and thought it was a ‘masterpiece tragedy’. Sean Connery played Roald Amundsen, Claudia Cardinale was a hot nurse Valeria. Most of the time (script) all was lost; the characters would suffer from the situation, relationships and excruciating cold. Everyone’s face was covered with icicles. Everything went epic bad to the score of eternal Enio Morricone…
‘I think we have just screwed our day. The fish is not biting. Most of my blood circulation has shut down… And our phone is dead…. What other signs do we need to stop before it’s too late? It feels to me like this kind of adventure can only give pneumonia or a prostate whatever… What if we freeze to death, or worse, drift into the ocean on break-away sea ice floes like those 220 Latvian anglers? I should have SKYPEd with my Mom this morning.’
‘Just for today, I wish I had a giant beard like Hans Langseth to keep me warm. I could wrap it around my neck and shoulders and protect myself better from the Arctic cold and hard-blowing flurries’, the idea crossed my mind while we soldiered back to the station at the sunset empty-handed. The landscape was breathtaking though…
‘I thought the catch would happen fast and easy like that Finnish angler promised in his blog. ‘Next time may be you should check the real Canadian website for more information on local conditions,’ suggested honey-bunny. Oh well. That was our tribute to cold.We did catch one fish – a small pregnant perch, which we released:
I enlarged it on purpose (like they do with many things) to compare with the Finnish angler (bottom right image is a Finnish pike):
I was happy to be back to Montreal safe and sound. We passed by Costco and I bought a pack of freshly caught trout with one single wish in my head: ‘Summer, come back to me!’.
The wish manifested later in the form of Trucha Con Jamón dish – my favorite Spanish way (originating from Navarra region) to cook trout wrapped in cured ham. Crisp ham and fish skin, juicy tender fish fillet inside, contrasting exotic flavors. It guarantees to bring the sunshine back to your plate rain or shine! Next time in February, Costco will be as far as I can go for my winter catch of the day adventure, I swear.
Naturally, this recipe can be done with other wrap-able fresh fish, or even better, fish fillet. Pickerel, cod, haddock, rockfish or bass fillets would be my best bets; lean salmon would be OK  (as long as the piece is not too greasy).
Equally, some versions of Trucha Con Jamón are done with the ham going inside the cavity of the fish instead of the outside. The most known is the one called Truca a la Riohana. Still heavenly tasty!
Quick note: TOTALLY OPTIONAL – often I de-bone the fish (which is easy in case of the fresh trout) for the comfort of consumption, but it’s really not necessary if you’re OK with fish bones (although it does give you a hint that you can do the same with any pair of fish fillets – sounds to me like a great idea for a restaurant menu):
Another quick note/disclaimer: although it makes quite a stretch from the classic recipe, thinly sliced fresh pork belly makes a great riff on this dish for both, to stuff or to wrap it in:
Some words on side courses:
– Excellent with simple green peas and some other steamed or sautéed veggies extra, like zucchini, broccoli, sprouts, etc.;
– Out of this world with the side course of warm sautéed leeks and carrots  and/or olive salad; 
– Festive with Waldorf;
– Light and easy with simple green watercress salad;
– Groovie with classic potato salad,
and many more…
Enjoy!
***
TROUT WRAPPED IN CURED HAM (Trucha Con Jamón)
Yields: 1 to 2 portions depending on the trout size or your appetite. Multiply the ingredients accordingly.
Ingredients:
1 small to medium size fresh trout, gutted and cleaned (deboned if necessary)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 wedge of lemon to sprinkle (optional)
1 slice of bacon/lard, cut in cubes (optional)
1 small red bell pepper, diced (optional)
2-3 pieces of cured ham (Serrano, Proscuitto, etc.) thinly sliced
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
Ingredients:
Season the trout with salt and pepper, sprinkle with lemon inside out and set aside.
Heat the skillet to medium high, add bacon and fry it for 2-3 minutes. Add red bell pepper to the skillet and continue frying for another 2-3 minutes. Transfer to the plate and let cool. Keep the liquid bacon fat leftover in the skillet for the next step.
Pat-dry trout with paper towels and stuff the cavity with bacon-red pepper mix.  Wrap the trout with cured ham making sure the cavity with the stuffing is well closed.
Re-heat the same skillet to medium high. Add olive oil and warm it through. Place the trout wrapped in ham carefully into the skillet. Cook on each side for 5-7 minutes, lowering the heat a bit if necessary to make sure the fish is cooked through. Enjoy with some light vegetable side dish!
TROUT STUFFED WITH HAM (Trucha a la Riohana)
Yields: 1 to 2 portions depending on the trout size or your appetite. Multiply the ingredients accordingly.
Ingredients:
1 small to medium size fresh trout, gutted and cleaned (deboned if wish be)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2-3 pieces of cured ham (Serrano, Proscuitto, etc.) thinly sliced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Instructions:
Season the trout with salt and pepper. Pat dry the trout with paper towel. Stuff the cavity with ham.  Heat the same skillet to medium high. Add olive oil and warm it through. Place the trout carefully into the skillet. Cook on each side for 5+ minutes, lowering the heat a bit if necessary to make sure the fish is cooked through. Enjoy with some light vegetable side dish!

End of Line Adventures: Whole Fish Grilled or Baked in Salt


‘Eww, what’s that?’ I can hear you saying looking at the images while I’m posting this almost a week upon drafting (sorry, I’m temporarily in vacation and away from my computer). Well, what can I say, at least I’m not offering you a blood sausage or a liver pate (not just yet, because one day I surely will). Some foods deserve more attention than they actually get and a whole fish is one of them… I know that besides the ocean/lake taste, scaling, gutting or de-boning fish may repulse some people and I do hope you are not one of them. But if you are, in favor of its deservingly good rep among healthy celeb foodies like Martha Stewart, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sting, Trudie Styler and others, I can tell you that poached, steamed, baked, roasted or grilled whole fish is actually considered to be a light and elegant meal by many; and is a must do on many personal chefs’ menus.  This recipe is one of the easiest and the most impressive one in this repertoire.
Here is what you can do with a pack of salt and one whole fish. Just gut the fish, keep the scale on, wrap it in salt (with the choice of your seasoning) and grill it or bake it for 25 to 35 minutes depending on the size of the fish. I personally find this trick (leaving the scale on) invaluable for fishing or camping menus, when you catch a great perch or walleye (both are great tasting fish, but a bloody disaster when it comes to scaling).  The scale will come off with the salt crust easily upon cooking (where not, just gently remove it with the sharp knife). 
The result: moist, well-done, packed with oceanic or lake flavors tamed by the diffusing aromas of whichever herbs, condiment or spices (from peppercorns and bay leaf to mustard, sriracha, soya sauce, to lemon, bacon, salami, parsley, thyme, or just any edible wild grass you can find around your camping spot including young cattails shoots and wild garlic) you decide to insert in the fish cavity before encrusting it in salt.  Truly, I’ve seen no better or easier way to bake, roast or grill the whole fish to perfection, keeping it simple, not to mention the impressive presentation. Don’t worry about the saltiness, once you break off the crust and remove the salt, the flesh will be just perfectly salty and succulent. 
Earlier this summer we went for our first fishing trip this year to Champlain Lake at the US border for walleye and perch, but only caught some baby pikes, which we released back into the lake. For the times like that I always bring at least one whole fresh fish with me in the cooler to grill later on a BBQ, so we can embrace the ambiance and the great fishing spirit no matter what, and share the incredible fishing stories over the plate of what could have been the fish we caught. 

This time is was a haddock (previously I also salt-crusted successfully white fish, tilapia, perch and walleye). Haddock is great for the recipe: the flavors are enhanced and there is some smokiness added to the taste. We had it with salsa verde and fingerling potatoes and everyone loved the tender savory fillets sprinkled with parsley and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. 

Great tip from Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen:rub the fish with soya sauce before encrusting it in salt to give it some Asian flavor kick:
Even those in our gang who don’t usually admire any kind of fish (they fish for sport, we fish for fish) reluctantly admitted it tasted great. You will never know until you try it for yourself. Good luck fishing and grilling; and as the Irish blessing says: ‘May the holes in your net be no larger than the fish in it.’


WHOLE FISH BAKED OR GRILLED IN SALT CRUST
Ingredients:
One whole fresh fish (1 to 2 lbs), gutted, with head, tail and scales left on
1 tbsp soya sauce, rubbed in fish (optional)
8-10 black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
Small bunch of fresh parsley (or mix of parsley and thyme), chopped
2-3 lbs of coarse salt, preferably sea salt
3+ tbsp of water or beer (to mix with salt)
Lemon, butter, olive oil to sprinkle with when serving
2-3 scallions and some fresh parsley, minced, for garnish
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400F, or the BBQ to medium high.
Rinse the fish in cold water, pat dry with paper towels. Insert the peppercorns and parsley inside the cavity of the fish.
Mix the salt in a bowl with enough water or beer to make a consistency of the sand castle sand. Spread half quantity of the salt on a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil slightly bigger than the fish. Lay the bay leaves on the salt and place the fish on the bay leaves. Spread the remaining slat over the fish until it’s totally encrusted. Leave the tail fin exposed if necessary.
Place the pan with fish on the middle rack in the oven or on the BBQ grill and bake for 25 (for 1 lbs) to 35 (for 2 lbs fish) minutes. The salt crust will become dry and hard. Remove the fish and gently crack of the layer of salt, removing as much as you can. The skin will come off the fish as well (use the sharp knife to remove the rest if necessary).   
Remove the fish fillets and divide between warm serving plates. Drizzle with olive oil or melted butter and lemon juice and sprinkle with scallions and chopped parsley if desired.

Ice Fishing in Quebec

Every winter, somewhere on the historic King’s road (route 138) to Quebec city, a colorful fishing village of over 500 cabins appears right on the river ice.

Known as Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, the place takes its name after the monumental Catholic church located at the mouth of the Sainte-Anne river. The mega church itself is already a first puzzle for the visitors, as its hard to understand its size vs under two thousand population ratio.

But the real reason behind the popularity of this place is a little fish called ”poulamon” (‘poolamon’), (or tomcod in English) which comes in zillions to Sainte Anne river each winter to reproduce. This is when the ice fishing village construction takes place and thousands of anglers arrive to fish tomcod in those cabins through the holes in the ice.

The tomcod (which is also called in French: ”petit poisson des chenaux”) is a fish from the cod family, which lives from 3 to 8 years and produces about 8600 eggs per lay in average. It roams the west coast of Atlantic, and comes to Saint-Anne river via St. Laurence to lay eggs.

The name ”poulamon” was borrowed into early North American French in Maritimes where it was the word for tomcod fish in the language of the Micmac First Nations people.

via Wikimedia Commons

We have been postponing our ”pêche blanche” trip to La Perade for weeks and finally took our time to start the ice fishing season last Sunday. I packed us a perfect picnic basket with assorted sandwiches, veal canapes, meatloaf leftovers from the other night, few bottles of our favorite red and white, a huge thermos of coffee and many other things. In other words: everything to make our trip a success in case we don’t catch the fish.

As you can see from the images, this place is not only for anglers and snow mobilers. Many people come here with kids and pets making it a family outing and what a great idea it is! There is so much fun for anyone in a place like that: fishing, sliding, skiing, hockey playing, snowman making, eating, dancing, taking a cart or even a helicopter tour over the frozen river for that special scenic drive!

No need to bring your rod or even fishing license to this place! Once you reserve your cabin everything is included: fishing lines with hooks, pork liver bait, wood and parking. The cabin was warm and super-comfy with wooden stove and electricity, so we could even plug in our stereo! We parked the car right outside the door of our cabin.

The cabin owner gave us some tips on fishing the tomcod. There is a wooden pole in the cabin with bunch of fishing lines attached to it right over the fishing hole. Each line is anchored with a weight and two hooks. The proper fishing technique is to attach the bait to hide the hook and let your weight fall to the bottom. You then raise the fishing line about half an inch from the bottom and wait until the fish bites.

Since the fish is biting fast, you have to repeat these moves quite often. This fish baits and bites like crazy, you get so much adrenaline! This is the view from the bottom of the river:

We caught a few dozen of tomcod within two hours. Once caught, the fish is thrown outside the cabin in the snow to freeze. That way the flavor is preserved and the fish is easy to clean.

The wooden stove was working non-stop in our cabin, so later in the evening, after all our snacks were gone, we even had time to eat some of our catch: clean, roll the fish in flour and fry it. It was quite delicious, although the fish cleaning part was not my favorite.

 The night is young, the folk fiddle and accordion music is still playing all over the place, people are just getting ready for the next contest…

Sadly for us, its time to leave as it takes few hours to go back to Montreal. Lit up at night, the cabins’ windows give wintery twinkling to the frozen river which seems suspended in light between white snow and dark star-flecked sky. A real Winter Wonderland! Can’t wait to return…
 À bientôt La Perade!!!
This is the address for this ”only in Quebec” location and their link:
8, rue Marcotte, Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade
Québec, Canada, G0X 2J0
http://www.associationdespourvoyeurs.com/