Thursday, 10 November 2011

Pastrav la gratar

"Grilled trout"

Fish plays quite a big part in the Romanian diet in particularly areas, especially those close the Danube, the delta, and the Black Sea. Fishing is also a very popular hobby. Mostly it is simply grilled, preferably on a barbeque, or made into a kind of fish chowder or stew. Bucharest has a few large fish markets and many of the supermarkets sell fresh(-ish) fish. I’m lucky enough to have a fishmonger close to my house.
Trout (pastrav) is reasonably popular and it is one of my favourites. Mostly you find farmed trout here but occasionally you’ll be able to get wild trout. There are many trout farms around Romania, called pastavarie, and if you get the chance to stop at one of these for lunch, I recommend that you do.
Cooking trout on the grill is relatively simple, but people shy away from fish because they are unsure about buying and preparing it, so here’s my simple guide.
Buying the fish:
I generally prefer not to buy fillets of trout because you can no longer tell how fresh they are. If you are not squeamish, then it’s probably best to buy fresh fish an gut them yourself. Look for fish which have clear eyes – if the eyes have turned white, it’s not fresh. Also, don’t buy fish that smell ‘fishy’. Fresh fish don’t smell of fish. Finally, if they haven’t been gutted, take a look at the gills – they should be nice and red as they lose colour with age.
Gutting the fish:
A lot of people complain that trout sometimes taste ‘muddy’. I can’t say I’ve ever notice this but I also clean the fish thoroughly, making sure to remove the scales. There’s a lot of mud and grit under the scales and I think by removing them you are essentially removing this muddy ‘marinate’.
Lay the fish on a flat surface, pin the tail down with two fingers (or a fork, even, if it’s a bit slippery) and using a sharp knife angled away from you at about 25 degrees to the fish, scrap along the fish from tail to head. The scales should come off easily and the slime while stop them flying all over the kitchen. Scrap the knife clean from time to time and continue until the scales have been removed from both sides, including the belly and the back.
Give the trout a little rinse to remove any loose scales and then insert the point of the knife into the hole near the tail (its anus) and cut along the belly of the fish to the ‘chin’. Don’t stick the knife in too deep or you’ll end up mangling the intestines and making a nasty mess.
Gently pull out the intestines by hand. They should come away easily, especially to the rear, and yank them out from the head area, using a knife if necessary. Now you can either chop off the head and the gills in one go, or cut out the gills if you wish to leave the head on (some people prefer it that way).
Using the knife, or a good pair of meat scissor (I find this easier), cut off the fins from around the body. They often have a thick piece of gristle just under the skin so cut that out too – it’s not nice to eat.
Finally, look inside the body cavity and you’ll see a blood line running along the middle. Cut into this with the point of your knife and rinse out all the blood and membrane – it gives a nasty bitter taste to the fish. Flick out any remaining blobs of blood and wash well. That’s the hard part over!
Grilling the fish:
Rub the fish inside and out with some olive oil, season it in and out with salt and pepper, and place on the barbeque or under the grill, turning once, until the skin has started to brown. It should only be 5-6 minutes for each side. Don’t overcook it or it’ll dry out – it should be moist, succulent, and flaky.
Some people put lemon wedges inside the fish when they cook it but I find the taste of cooked lemon too bitter so I prefer to drizzle the fish with fresh lemon when I eat it.
Serve with salad, cartofi prajiti (chips) , or vegetable fritters and serve with a cold beer or a bottle of white wine.

1 comment:

Medifast said...

Good post today, I always get so confused when purchasing fish and of course worry about not getting fresh.