Photo Credit: Mette Nielsen

Call me a picky fish eater — I pick fish (and its most succulent bits) from the bones. What’s better than ultra fresh, ever so humble trout from near-by icy waters, flash fried to be crisp outside and moist-tender within. Trout is a Best Choice on the Seafood Watch list. Plus, it’s easy, quick, and when presented whole, it’s elegant. All you need is a heavy, skillet, salt and freshly ground black pepper, oil, butter and lemon. Those small one-pound trout are the perfect one-size serving.

When you cook trout, butterflied and whole, the outside skin becomes finger-licking crispy and the meat cooks through to perfection. (This avoids the issues of trying to pan-fry a whole fish, where one side is cooked through and the other not quite).

Before you begin, rinse the fish well with cold water. Blot it dry, very dry, with paper towels, on the skin and inside. Open the fish, like a book, slightly pressing the backbone to be sure it’s flat. Be generous with the salt and pepper on both the outside of the fish and in. Serve the fish whole and encourage people to pick out the last bits from the bones. This is not for the persnickety, it’s for the real picky.


Serves 4

For a pretty finish, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with tartar sauce on the side.


4 whole (12-ounce trout), cleaned with heads and tails on

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup cornmeal

Generous pinch red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 lemon, cut into thin slices


Rinse the fish under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels. Generously season with salt and freshly ground pepper. In a shallow dish, stir together the flour, cornmeal, and pepper flakes.

Set a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil and butter; when it’s foaming, dredge the fish in the flour mixture and fry for about 4 to 6 minutes per side until the meat flakes with a fork. (Do not crowd the pan, so if you work in batches, hold the cooked fish in a low, 300 degree oven until read to serve.) Serve the trout whole, garnished with the lemon slices.