Boy oh boy, do I have a recipe for you today. These smoked rainbow trout fritters are kind of everything to me right now.
Before the Feast of the Seven Fishes we hosted over the Christmas holidays, I read up about how Italians celebrate their holidays with a glorious seafood feast. My first thought, as it usually is when I read anything about Italian food culture, was “Gosh, everyone in Italy is so freaking lucky.” Then I discovered one menu that included salt cod fritters, and I immediately thought, “Self, I think I might have just found the perfect excuse to do some deep frying this Christmas.”
I pretty much think that every Christmas, actually. Maybe it has to do with the fact that my dad sinks a 12-pound turkey into a bubbling vat of peanut oil every Thanksgiving. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I grew up in the South. Regardless of what it is, every holiday that I find myself with some free time, I start thinking about what I can turn golden brown with a shimmering kettle of canola oil.
Before our big dinner, I ran all over the place looking for salt cod. Guess what? It’s really hard to find. In fact, it’s so hard to find that I gave up entirely, thinking instead that a deep fried ball of some sort of smoked fish might be a good derivation from the salt cod fritter recipes I’d been reading. I figured that whatever smoked fish I used would probably be better if it were hot-smoked (as opposed to cold smoked, like what you would typically see for the sliced salmon or lox that goes on bagels), since it would likely stand up better to deep-frying and also impart more of that smoky flavor that might otherwise be diluted by the potato base of my fritters. Luckily, Trader Joe’s had Ducktrap smoked rainbow trout fillets. Ge Ge (my four-year-old son) loves rainbow trout, so I thought he’d like the fritters even more if he knew his favorite “snacking fish” (as he calls it) were inside.
As it turns out, smoked rainbow trout fillets are really well-suited to be inside a fluffy, potato-based fritter. The fish is delicate and blends in really nicely with mashed potato, neither overwhelming the starchy flavor of potato nor being completely masked by it either. I heated the oil before our dinner guests arrived and assembled the fritters as soon as they blew in the door so that I could fry them up in batches and serve them up hot and crispy. To my surprise, the kids at the dinner loved the fritters. Sure, some of them thought they were eating chicken nuggets, but the point is, they ate them. In the “frazzled parent of small children” circle of friends I run around with these days, that’s a pretty major victory.
Plus, nothing says friendship like deep-frying an appetizer for dinner guests. While they buzz merrily around you, beads of sweat are running down your face from the mighty concentration it takes to not burn your house down.
It sure does make a cheese spread look like amateur hour, no?
smoked trout fritters (aka tasty fish balls)
- 6 small white or golden potatoes (rinsed, peeled and cubed)
- 8 ounces smoked rainbow trout fillets (Ducktrap, if available)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped green scallions
- 3 sprigs finely minced Italian flat-leaf parsley
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
- Lemon wedges (for serving)
- With a small pair of tweezers, run your hands over the smoked rainbow trout fillets and remove any bones you feel or see. Small bones are okay, so don’t stress if you can’t get every last one. Flake the rainbow trout into a small bowl and set aside.
- Place the diced potatoes in a large, heavy pot and add water so that the water covers the potatoes with about 1 inch of space. Bring the potatoes to a boil, then reduce heat and cook just until fork tender, about 12 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl to cool for ten minutes.
- Mash the potatoes with a heavy spoon until smooth but still slightly lumpy. Add the trout, green onions, parsley, 1 egg, the salt, pepper and cayenne and mix until smooth.
- In a durable, medium-sized saucepan (i.e., cast iron) pot or deep fryer, heat enough oil to come halfway up the sides over medium heat until the temperature of the oil reaches 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Prepare three small bowls in a line. Pour the flour into one. In the second, beat together the remaining egg and milk. Pour the breadcrumbs in the third bowl.
- Form the trout mixture into balls about 1 1/4-inches in diameter and 1 heaping tablespoon each. You should have about 24 balls total.
- One at a time, dip the trout balls in the flour and roll to coat evenly on all sides. Shake to remove any excess flour, dip in the egg wash, and then roll in the breadcrumbs. Place on a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap.
- In batches, gently add the balls to the oil and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 2 1/2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
- Serve immediately.
My recipe was inspired by this Food Network recipe
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