This recipe takes about 10 minutes from preparation to table, making it perfect for those nights when you’re absolutely starving and can’t stand to wait around for the perfect gourmet meal to materialize. Barbecued trout is not only fast and easy, it will confuse your taste buds who know they’re at home but would swear they’re in a fancy seafood restaurant.
I have the niftiest gadget for grilling fish — a grilling basket. It’s a must-have if you love barbecued fish but hate the demoralizing disappointment when that delicious fillet of salmon flakes away into the coals of your barbecue.
The trout I’m cooking is a variety of Rainbow Trout called Steelhead Trout. It looks and tastes remarkably like Salmon down to the meaty, soft texture but according to seafood watchdog groups, it’s more sustainable, and it’s also cheaper. Both are considered oily fish with lots of omega 3 fatty acids in every bite, so you’re not trading health for sustainability by choosing trout.
Steelhead Trout live nearly identically to Salmon, growing and feeding in the ocean, then swimming upstream to spawn. I’ve bought my Steelhead from Costco, where it cost $14.00 for two large fillets that could comfortably feed 5-6 people (you may have noticed: I’m a Costco shopper…).
Can’t find Steelhead in your local grocery store or fish monger? Salmon is an obvious substitute but any meaty fish will work nicely — like swordfish or tuna, though if using tuna, I recommend taking it off the grill when medium rare for optimal flavor and texture. Whatever fish you use, try to get a skin-on fillet. It helps to evenly cook the fish and keeps it moist.
Steelhead Trout fillets with skin
Black Pepper (optional)
As you can see, this is not a measured recipe. The amount of fish you have, how much spice you like and how deeply abiding your love is for coriander will determine your measurements.
Lay your fish out on the grill basket, skin down. Sprinkle on the coriander first. I find it very difficult to use too much coriander as it’s not an overwhelming flavor. It’s a mild spice with citrus notes — not pungent like cilantro, even though coriander is the cilantro plant’s seeds. If you’re someone who hates cilantro leaves (my grandmother thought they tasted like soap), try coriander with an open mind.
I sprinkled on enough to lightly color the trout, but not so much that I couldn’t easily see the flesh.
Next up, your cayenne pepper. Please keep in mind, cayenne pepper is VERY HOT. Cayenne is a spicy pepper, not sweet like paprika. Use it sparingly especially if you don’t really like spicy foods. I suggest sprinkling it on conservatively like you would salt, just a dash here and a dash there. Even if you don’t like lots of spice, I would encourage you to use just a little because cayenne will lend a delicious, round smokiness without overwhelming the trout, like smoked paprika would.
Don’t worry if you haven’t much experience cooking with spices. It’s difficult to use too much coriander, and you know to be careful with cayenne, so be bold! You’ll only learn by doing.
Sprinkle on a little salt and black pepper, then add a couple large knobs of butter to each fillet. Secure your grilling basket lid, pinning the butter in place, then set it on a very hot barbecue, skin side down, and cover for 4 minutes. Covering the barbecue traps the heat, allowing the flesh to cook on top with the melted butter while the skin blackens below.
When time is up, check to see that the skin has blackened a little and colored a lot, then flip your fish over and finish cooking it flesh-side down for 2 minutes.
Please be mindful that these cooking times are based on the size of the fillets I used. Fish cooks extremely quickly, so it’s very easily over-cooked. You’ll know it’s done when the flesh flakes easily when pulled apart with a fork.
Fish that is perfectly cooked should not flake by itself. If the flesh is pulling apart, it’s overdone. Also keep an eye on the color, which should remain pink and glistening, even when completely cooked — never pale and dry.
When you’re satisfied with the doneness, remove immediately and, as gingerly as possible, lift off the grilling basket lid (I can never get it off without disturbing my fish).
Serve immediately with a glass of chardonnay in summer or pinot noir in winter, and sautéed green beans with pancetta and garlic.