Out for Trout

Giving your catch the campfire (and haute cuisine) treatment

STORY AND PHOTOS By Claire McArthur

Park City Culinary Institute executive chef Derek Gherkins is an avid fly fisherman who cooks trout in the backcountry and in the kitchen.

Park City Culinary Institute executive chef Derek Gherkins’ first taste of wild-caught trout was not love at first bite. “My dad recently reminded me about the time he took me fishing when I was young. He cooked up two of the trout we caught, and after trying it I said, ‘Dad, next time let’s throw them all back,’” Gherkins says with a laugh.

Fast forward to present day, and the culinary instructor can be found fly fishing in Utah’s numerous rivers and streams at least once a week. Needless to say, his appreciation for the delicate white meat of the trout has since changed.

“Fly fishing is great if you’re into puzzles,” says Gherkins, who favors fishing the Provo River. “You’ve got to figure out where the fish are, what they’re eating, what the water temperature is, what the fly looks like and the exact size of the fly. It takes some time to really get it figured out. The difference between you catching something or not could be a half-millimeter in your fly.”

Utah’s lakes and tributaries are teeming with rainbow, cutthroat, brown, brook, lake and golden trout, which all differ slightly in taste because of their varying diets.

“Brown trout are bottom feeders and tend to taste kind of like dirt. Rainbows are a little bit better because they eat insects that are above the water a lot,” explains Gherkins. “Cutthroat are top of the food chain when it comes to trout, so they have a lot firmer white meat and those tend to be pretty nice. I enjoy cutthroat a lot, and it was actually on my menu when I was the chef at Windy Ridge Cafe [in Park City].”

Gherkins also served as chef at Park City’s Grappa and Ghidotti’s.

While Gherkins mostly releases his catches, when he’s out backpacking in the Uinta Mountains, trout is one of his favorite camp meals.

“I’ll do what the camping people in Utah call a tin foil dinner or a hobo dinner, but the French term we use in the kitchen is en papillote,” says Gherkins.

The chef packs in dried seasonings, lemon and butter to stuff inside the fish, then wraps the fish in tin foil and puts it directly on the coals of the fire, rotating it periodically for six to 12 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. “If you’ve got a beer or are carrying wine, it’s nice to use when you’re cooking the trout, too,” Gherkins says.

Don’t let the lemon beurre blanc sauce intimidate you—it’s easier than it sounds and incredibly flavorful

But when he has a full kitchen at his disposal, trout gets a different treatment entirely.

“I like to chop up blanched almonds, encrust the fish with that, and sear it at a high heat,” Gherkins says. “Then I’ll make a nice lemony beurre blanc and serve it with sautéed seasonal vegetables.”
Don’t let the fancy French sauce throw you—Gherkins’ recipe for almond-crusted trout with lemon beurre blanc and sautéed squash and carrots does not require a culinary degree to re-create at home. It’s quick, delicious and a testament to this fly fisherman’s love of trout both on the river and in the kitchen.


Almond-Crusted Trout with Lemon Beurre Blanc and Sautéed Squash and Carrots
When searing trout at a high heat, use an oil that has a higher smoking point like canola or grapeseed oil
Almond-Crusted Trout

Ingredients
2 trout fillets
¼ cup chopped almonds
1-2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Salt and pepper, to taste

Process
Remove skin from trout fillets, and season them with salt and pepper. Press fillets in chopped almonds, encrusting both sides. Heat canola oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, then place fillets in the skillet to sear. When almonds begin to turn golden, add the butter and continue to cook until the crust turns a deeper golden brown. Flip fillets over and continue cooking until fish is firm and cooked through. Remove the fish from the pan, and discard the remaining oil.


Lemon Beurre Blanc
Trout can be prepared simply in the backcountry in a tin foil packet with butter and lemon or more elaborately in the kitchen using many of the same ingredients

Ingredients
1 tablespoon minced shallots
¼ cup white wine
½ lemon, zested
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
½ lemon, juiced
1 sprig fresh thyme
½ teaspoon fresh chopped parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste

Process
In the same pan, add shallots and sweat until soft and translucent. Next, add white wine, lemon zest, and thyme sprig. Reduce wine until nearly dry. Remove the pan from heat, and whisk in butter one tablespoon at a time, slowly melting. When all of the butter is melted, discard the thyme sprig, then add the lemon juice and parsley. Season the sauce with salt and pepper before spooning the sauce over the fish.


Sautéed Squash and Carrots
Chef Derek Gherkins encrusts trout with chopped almonds, drizzles it in a lemon beurre blanc and serves it alongside sautéed squash and carrots

Ingredients
1 zucchini, sliced into ¼-inch pieces
1 yellow squash, sliced into ¼-inch pieces
1 carrot, sliced into ¼-inch pieces
1 teaspoon minced shallots
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon chopped parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste

Process
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and add squash and carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté squash and carrots until they begin to become tender. Add shallots and continue to cook until squash and carrots are al dente. Toss with parsley and serve alongside trout.

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