Trout on a Stick / Trout in a Basket

Method: grilling over a campfire/ direct grilling
Serves 4

Tips: In the most primal version of this dish, you'd simply impale the fish on sticks and cook them, marshmallow-style, over a campfire. I've upscaled the recipe slightly by stuffing the fish with scallions and butter and swaddling it in bacon. But such niceties are optional. So is the campfire, for trout are excellent cooked on a grill. Ideally, you'd work on a charcoal grill stoked with wood chunks instead of charcoal. But even a gas grill will give you superior trout. A fish basket reduces the risk of sticking and facilitates turning. One good brand is made by Charcoal Companion and is available at grill shops and hardware stores.

  • 4 whole trout (each 12 to 16 ounces)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 scallions, trimmed
  • 8 slices bacon
  • lemon wedges for squeezing
You'll also need: butchers string; 4 sticks (1/2 inch in diameter, 2-1/2 to 3 feet long); or 1 fish basket for small whole fish; wood chunks for building a fire or for tossing on the coals or 1 to 2 cups unsoaked wood chips.

Wash the trout inside and out and blot dry. Make a couple of diagonal slashes to the bone in each side of each fish. This speeds up the cooking and allows for the absorption of the smoke flavor. Generously season the trout inside and out with salt and pepper. Smear a little butter inside each trout and place a scallion in the cavity. Smear a little more butter on the outside of each fish. Place on strip on each side of the trout, running lengthwise. Tie the strips to the fish in three places, using butchers string.

CAMPFIRE METHOD

Build a campfire and let it die down to glowing embers. Impale the trout on a stick. (A forked stick works best for this: insert one end of each fork into the cavity.) Holding the trout about 10 inches above the coals, grill until the bacon and/or skin are nicely browned and the fish is cooked through, 6 to 10 minutes per side. Move the trout as needed to dodge any bacon fat fires.

If you don't have sticks, place the trout in a fish basket you've previously sprayed with oil or greased with bacon fat. Grill the same way.

GRILL METHOD

Set up your grill for direct grilling and preheat to medium-high. For the best results, you'd build a wood fire. Alternatively, toss some wood chunks or unsoaked chips on the coals in a charcoal grill or place in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch on a gas grill.

Arrange the fish on the grill grate and grill until the outside is browned and the fish is cooked, 6 to 10 minutes per side, turning with tongs. Leave plenty of open space on the grill, so you can move the trout in the event of flare-ups.

Snip the strings if using and serve the trout with the bacon and lemon wedges for squeezing.

© 2006 Steven Raichlen | site design Benjamin Wilchfort