How to cook freshly caught fish
By Frédérique Naud
The feeling of getting away from it all to go fishing is delicious. But what’s just as delectable is cooking up and eating the fish you catch. Planning recipes, stocking up on ingredients, and imagining the possible flavor combinations is child’s play—at least it will be after you’ve read this article!
Here are some of my favorite, simple tips for cooking freshly caught fish.
First, prepare your fish
Before firing up the grill, you need to clean and prepare your catch. The technique is simple: Using a very sharp knife, slice open the fish in the center of the abdomen, from tail to head, then remove the innards. Be sure to scrape off the scales and remove any excess blood, then rinse the fish in cold water.
For trout, the skin and head can be left on. I prefer to keep them whole—it’s less complicated!
Next, choose your flavours
Keep it simple. Because fresh fish doesn’t need much to bring out all its flavor. A few quality ingredients, a pinch of TLC, and you’re all set.
Good-quality olive oil, lemon (or other acidic element), fleur de sel, and pepper are all you need to savor the taste of fresh fish. If you want to get fancy, try adding a sprig of your favorite fresh herb.
I love preparing fish with a simple pickle sauce made with sour cream, dill, chives, and pickles. Served with a baby potato salad, it’s a guaranteed hit.
Try dressing up your fresh fish with a vinaigrette-style sauce of olive oil, tomatoes, cilantro, basil, and lemon, known in French cuisine as sauce vierge. It adds a refreshing touch, plus it’s super easy and practical when serving big groups. In a large bowl, combine halved cherry tomatoes, finely chopped green onions, fresh herbs, capers, and a generous pinch of fleur de sel, then drizzle with olive oil. Pour the sauce over the grilled fish and enjoy.
Feeling festive? Why not try fish tacos! With a white fish like walleye, they’re a real treat. I like to cook the fish in flaky chunks with a bit of curry, then serve it on tacos (ideally, soft tacos) with whatever’s at hand: guacamole, cilantro, pickled red onions, lime juice, mango, tomatoes, corn salsa… the possibilities are endless.
Yes, you read that right: pizza! While it might take you a bit out of your comfort zone, I promise you’ll love this creative way to serve up your catch of the day.
Use store-bought naan and replace traditional tomato sauce with crème fraîche. Top your pizza with flakes of fish, capers, shallots, herbs of your choice (a sprig of fresh dill is highly recommended), and top with good-quality grated cheese, or with fresh mozzarella crumbled into smallish chunks. You can also try substituting crème fraîche with cream cheese for a result that’s every bit as delicious.
Now all you have to do is bake the pizza for a few minutes in the oven or on the BBQ, until the cheese is melted. Tip: Moisten the top of the naan lightly with water before topping, for a tender yet crunchy crust!
What about cooking?
When serving several people at once, opt for similar-sized fish, to avoid different cooking times.
Fish can be cooked in any number of ways: in a pan, on the BBQ, wrapped in aluminum foil over a campfire, in the oven… Whichever option you choose, take care not to overcook the fish: it’s ready once the flesh flakes easily with a fork.
My brother-in-law's brainwave
A couple of years ago, my brother-in-law came up with the ingenious idea of bringing along a small portable smoker on a fishing trip. Ever since, it’s become an essential piece of equipment. The delicate taste of orange-flavored smoke adds a truly unique and mouthwatering touch to freshly caught fish. You can even vacuum-pack and freeze the fish, so you can enjoy the taste of summer later in the year.
Good ol' family traditions
Our family’s longest-standing fishing tradition is without a doubt the lunchtime trout. On a small campstove, we pan-fry the trout in bacon fat, right in the boat. Smaller, freshly caught trout are best. The saltiness of the bacon provides all the seasoning you need. Why not give it a try.
The all-time classic
Simply pat the fish dry, add salt, and roll it in flour. Then, fry lightly in a pan, with butter, and serve with a dash of lemon juice. Simple and delicious.
The latest addition
We’ve added a new classic to our annual fishing trip recipe collection in recent years. You marinate whole trout in olive oil, lime juice, and garlic, stuff them with green onions and mint leaves, then grill ‘em on the BBQ (Thank you, Ricardo!). It’s delectable, light, and as easy as pie.
Have we whet your appetite? Simply let your imagination run wild, and use whatever fresh ingredients you have handy.
Now, picture yourself with friends or family after a great day of fishing, as you enjoy a refreshing drink and tell fish tales over a delicious meal. It doesn’t get much better than that!