Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cornmeal-Crusted Trout with Herbed Cheddar Grits and Apple Slaw

I don't cook a lot of trout. It's a bit expensive -- these four fillets were $22 less the 5% discount faculty get at Earth Fare on Wednesdays. And you don't get the health benefits you get with cold water fish like salmon and tuna. But, the Sunburst Trout Company is sponsoring a recipe contest this month so I thought I'd indulge my grits obsession and see if I could come up with an interesting dish.

Cornmeal-Crusted Trout with Herbed Cheddar Grits and Apple Slaw

Ingredients:

For the Herbed Cheddar Grits:
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups fat-free milk
  • 2 cups stone-ground grits
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups good-quality mild cheddar cheese, grated (lightly packed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, minced
  • dash of Cholula hot sauce
For the Apple Slaw:
  • 1 cup Granny Smith apple, cut into medium dice
  • 2 cups sliced cabbage or broccoli slaw mix
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch of cayenne
For the Cornmeal-Crusted Trout:
  • 4 trout fillets,
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil+ extra if needed for frying
Directions:
  1. Bring the chicken broth, milk and grits to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Turn the heat down to low and simmer, stirring frequently, about 30-40 minutes until the grits are the desired consistency.
  2. Add the butter, cheese, salt, herbs and Cholula, stirring to combine. You may need to add an additional 1/4 liquid (either water or chicken broth) to thin the grits to the desired consistency.
  3. Meanwhile, toss together the apple, cabbage or broccoli slaw, and lemon juice in a small bowl.
  4. In a small skillet, melt the butter and toast the pecans over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant.
  5. Sprinkle the sugar, salt and pinch of cayenne over the pecans and cook, stirring constantly (do not walk away!), until the pecans are coated.
  6. Remove the skillet from heat and cool pecans slightly. Add the contents of the skillet to the cabbage or broccoli slaw and apple mixture and toss to combine.
  7. Pour the buttermilk in a shallow dish and add the trout in a single layer, turning to coat.
  8. In a shallow bowl, combine 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, pepper, cayenne, cornmeal, flour, parsley. Remove each piece of the trout from the buttermilk and let the excess drip off.
  9. Dip the flesh side of the trout in the cornmeal mixture, pressing to make sure it is fully coated, dusting it by hand for a good layer of cornmeal.
  10. Melt the butter and then add the oil to a large skillet.
  11. Heat until almost smoking, then add 2 fillets ( or as many as will fit comfortably) flesh side down. When it begins to curl, about 1 to 2 minutes longer, turn the fish.
  12. Cook on the skin side just another 30 seconds or so, sprinkle with some of the other 1/2 teaspoon of salt, then remove to the warm oven while the remaining fish cooks. Add more oil and butter to the pan if need.
  13. To serve, put a cup of cheese grits on the plate, top with a piece of fish and 3/4 cup of slaw.
Yield: 4 servings
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

DH did a beautiful job of cooking the fish while I made a second batch of the pecans for the slaw. I stepped away to get the sugar, then the cayenne, and managed to burn the first. We loved the combination of textures -- creamy grits, crispy cornmeal, and crunchy slaw -- and flavors -- savory cheese and sweet apple. The cabbage in the slaw mix, while beautiful, was more thickly sliced than I would have liked. That made it a little difficult to eat if you wanted to have some of each of the three components in each bite. Next time, I'll probably use broccoli slaw mix instead, and might up the ratio of apple to slaw so that there is a little more sweet crunch to compliment all that savory.

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