Minnesotan anglers may be "fish snobs" if they focus only on walleye for the table, says award-winning food writer Amy Thielen.
"In northern Minnesota, where I live, there are so many people who fish. And a lot of people throw stuff back. These are fish that I would like to be eating," Thielen said.
She said she enjoys northern pike, though they can be more difficult to filet. Thielen also loves trout, and suggests curing with a brown sugar and salt mixture.
Recipe: Brown sugar smoked trout with lemon aioli
• 4 small rainbow trout, dressed (about 3/4 pound each)
• 1/4 cup light brown sugar
• 1/4 cup maple syrup
• 1/2 cup Kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
• freshly cut branches or lightly soaked fruitwood chips, for smoking
• 1 garlic clove
• 1 cup of mayonnaise
• 1 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest
• 3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 6 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
• salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
A quick note: If you're smoking the trout outside over a tripod campfire grill, you want to do it on a day that's not excessively windy, so that the smoke rolls upward toward the fish.
Combine the brown sugar, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix to combine. Add the cleaned trout and slather the cure all over the fish. Transfer to a large plastic bag — you may need a 2-gallon bag if they are large — and scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula to get all of the cure onto the fish. Leave to cure for one to two hours, refrigerated.
Meanwhile, make the lemon aioli. Smash the garlic clove on a cutting board, sprinkle with salt and mash with the side of your knife to a paste. Transfer the garlic paste to a small bowl and add the mayonnaise and lemon zest and juice. Whisk in the olive oil slowly to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Quickly rinse the trout and lay them on a large rack over a baking sheet. Refrigerate uncovered until the skin is dry to the touch, about two hours.
Prepare a large wood fire under a tripod campfire grill, or with natural charcoal in a large charcoal grill, or in a dedicated wood-fired smoker. When the wood fire burns down enough to smoke, add freshly cut branches or fruitwood chips — or grape or hop vines, if you have them. (If using a charcoal grill, add the chips now, and set the smoking temperature to 225F.) Set the trout on the upper grill of the tripod and
Smoke the trout slowly, over a steady stream of smoke but at a low heat, until gently cooked through. The meat should perspire juice and when done, will be a pink color. At the right temperature, this should take one hour in total.
Serve the trout warm, or at room temperature with the lemon aioli. Leftover smoked trout will keep in the refrigerator up to one week.