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!

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