I love the delicate flavor and crispy skin of rainbow trout. Here in Chicago we are lucky enough to have an amazing sustainable trout farm, Rushing Waters, just a couple hours away, across the border in Wisconsin. If you’re not so lucky, substitute any freshwater fish you can get your hands on – or order from Rushing Waters online; they will ship to you overnight.
4 rainbow trout fillets, or other fish
2 bell peppers, whatever color you prefer
1 poblano pepper
5 C water
1 C champagne or white wine vinegar
1/3 C sugar
1 T salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 T pickling spice or a mixture of whatever you have on hand – coriander seeds, peppercorns, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, etc.
1 C long grain basmati rice
1/4 C rice flour
1 head romaine lettuce
5 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
2 T vegetable oil, or as needed
salt and black pepper to taste
First, pickle the peppers. Place the whole peppers on the floor of your wood oven and allow to roast, turning occasionally, until soft and charred on all sides. Remove to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow the peppers to steam for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small pot combine 2 cups of the water with the vinegar, sugar, 1 tablespoon of salt, garlic and pickling spices. You can just throw the garlic and spices in, but if you want to skip the step of having to pick them out of your peppers, tie them up in a small square of cheesecloth first and then add them to the brine. The fancy French cooking term for this is a sachet. Bring this mixture to a boil.
Once the peppers are steamed, use a kitchen towel to rub off the peppers’ charred skin and discard. Cut out the stems and seeds and slice the flesh of the peppers into thin strips. Put the peppers back into the bowl and pour the boiling pickle brine over them. Set aside and allow the peppers to marinate for at least 1 hour; they’ll only get better with age.
While the peppers are pickling, cook your rice. Actually, overcook your rice (slightly). Combine the rice with the remaining 3 cups of water and season with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until all the water is absorbed. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and allow the rice to steam itself for an additional 3 minutes after the water is gone. It should be soft and sticky but not a pot of mush. Allow the rice to cool to room temperature, then stir in the rice flour and season to taste with salt and pepper. Form the rice into flat, round cakes about 1/2 an inch thick and two inches in diameter. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet and pan fry the rice cakes until golden and crispy on both sides.
Cut the lettuce into quarters through the core so that the leaves stay together, coat lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in a roasting pan and cook in your wood oven until wilted and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, cut into strips crosswise and discard the core.
Preheat a large saute pan in your wood oven with the remaining oil. Season the fish with salt only. Once the oil has just begun to smoke, add the fish, skin side down, to the pan and roast in your wood oven. Rainbow trout is so thin that the fish should cook through completely without ever being turned. This should only take 3-5 minutes, depending on the temperature of your oven.
Place the rice cakes and roasted lettuce onto a serving platter. Remove the fish from the pan and place the fillets, skin side up, on top of the rice cakes. Toss the drained peppers and basil together and spoon over the fish.
Eat. Savor. Go back for seconds.