We woke up on Sunday to a gloriously sunny morning, perfect for hunting and gathering at the market. When we got down there, Nick spotted some trout and decided that was what he wanted for dinner. We learned the French word for “gutted” or “cleaned”in reference to a fish: vidé, as in “emptied.” Good to know. But how to prepare it? Sometimes I find it hard to make decisions like these at the market, with so much going on around me. All the smells and sights and sounds cause me to go into sensory overload, and my brain kind of shuts down. The only cure is to find a wine booth that gives out samples.
Eventually, after wandering the aisles and perusing the wares, we came up with a goat cheese and piquillo pepper stuffed trout, served with fish stock polenta and tomato salad. We thought the piquillo peppers would be easy to find at one of the Spanish/Portuguese specialty booths, but we were wrong. At the first one, the conversation went something like this: (translations my own)
Me: (pointing to a bin of roasted peppers) Ces sont quel type de poivron? (What kind of peppers are these?)
Girl at counter: Buh… rouge. (What are you color blind? Red!)
Me: Ummm… je cherche les poivrons “piquillo.” Je ne connais pas le mot en français, je connais le mot espagnol. (I’m looking for piquillo peppers, I don’t know the French word, just the Spanish one.)
Guy at counter: Doyouspeakenglish? English?
Me: Oui, mais… I’m looking for piquillo peppers.
Guy at counter: Hablas español? (Do you speak Spanish?)
And it went on like that. Red is not a variety, people! Anyway, we did end up finding some beautiful fresh peppers at one of the produce stands. They smelled great, so we bought those to roast at home. What were they called? “Poivrons Rouges Espagnols.” “Red Spanish Peppers.” Arrrrgh!
The tomatoes were no problem, as almost every stand had gorgeous coeur de boeuf (beef heart) tomatoes. Goat cheese was, of course, plentiful, but by the time we got around to looking for it, many of the booths had begun to close down. We were turned down at one fromagier, where the woman told us the goat cheese was already put away. End of story. But we persevered, and found a nice little ball of fresh goat cheese at the Auvergnat cheese stand.
After all that, actually cooking the meal was a piece of cake. I started with the tomato salad. This is one of the easiest, tastiest things you can do with a tomato. The better the tomato, the better the salad. Just dice up some tomatoes, add sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, a minced shallot, and some chopped fresh parsley. Drizzle with good olive oil, toss, and serve at room temperature.
On to the fish…
I let Nick do the honors of cutting the heads off the fish – he seemed excited about using the cleaver. I saved the fish heads in a plastic bag to freeze for future stock-making purposes.
There aren’t any pictures of the actual stuffing of the trout. It was a four-handed process. Nick held the fish open while I seasoned the cavities, lined them with strips of roasted piquillo pepper, and crumbled goat cheese inside. I got the polenta going (I used the extra-coarse stuff this time) and placed the fish on a foil-lined sheet pan in the oven.
Twenty minutes later, we had dinner!
The polenta made with fish stock came out quite well, and complimented the trout perfectly. The coarse grind made for an excellent texture, and really didn’t take any longer to cook. The fish was delicately perfumed with the smoky-sweet flavor of the roasted piquillos, and nicely cooked, too, if I do say so myself.