Grilled Whole Lake Trout with Garlic and Thyme

If you’re looking for a main dish that’s quick and easy to make, delicious, and makes for a dramatic presentation, whole grilled fish is a great way to go.

I was talking with the fishmonger at my local market last Saturday, and asked him what would be best to grill that night. He steered me to these beautiful lake trout, caught the day before. (When I say “whole” I just mean, heads and tails still on – the fishmonger had already cleaned/gutted them.)

Opening up and admiring the fish at home

Fish that’s very fresh has good color, shiny eyes, and firm flesh.

Stuffing the cavity with fresh thyme, crushed garlic cloves, and some sea salt

Stuffing the cavity with fresh thyme, crushed garlic cloves, and some sea salt

After admiring the fish, I stuffed each one with a few springs of fresh thyme, 2 crushed garlic cloves, and about 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt, and then rubbed a little olive oil on the outsides, just a tablespoon or so. Meanwhile I was heating the grill, and had scraped the grill grate clean with a wire brush and wiped a little oil on the grate too.

Prepped ingredients for our side dish, which was pasta with fresh pesto, cherry tomatoes, and parmigiano reggiano cheese.

Prepped ingredients for our side dish, which was pasta with fresh pesto, cherry tomatoes, and parmigiano reggiano cheese.

The trout on the grill, only about 7 minutes per side on medium to medium-high

The trout on the grill, only about 7 minutes per side on medium to medium-high

Before grilling the fish, I prepped the ingredients for our side dish, since I knew the fish cooking time would be short. Given this month’s garden bounty, fresh pesto and cherry tomatoes over pasta was the clear way to go. Years ago Elph gave me a beautiful Italian marble mortar and pestle that is fun to use, so that’s a bonus, and an encouragement to make pesto by hand rather than using a cuisinart. (When I’m making large quantities of pesto, I definitely do use a cuisinart…)

Some swear that basil tastes better and stays fresher when torn rather than cut with a knife; I have not tested that for myself, but I did enjoy using the mortar and pestle for this small dinner. I first crushed a clove of garlic in 1 teaspoon of sea salt, and then added basil and a good olive oil a bit at a time until I’d added about a packed cup’s worth of basil and a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and last added in some toasted walnuts, 1/3 cup or so. I sliced the cherry tomatoes (these are like candy right now so I used a lot, maybe 2 cups worth), and grated a cup of parmigiano reggiano.

I’d brought salted water to boil in a large pot, and when it was time to put the fish on the grill, I also put the pasta in the cooking water. This is easier to do simultaneously when you have 2 people cooking! If you’re solo you’ll probably want to stagger the cooking to prevent overcooking either the pasta or the fish.

We used a timer for 7 minutes a side for the fish, which is what the fishmonger recommended, but he also said just to test it by making a small incision in the flesh and seeing if it was flaky and no longer translucent.

It's hard to see the pasta and pesto under there, I put so many tomatoes on, but it was delicious!

It’s hard to see the pasta and pesto under there, I put so many tomatoes on, but it was delicious!

The fish were done in 14 minutes flat. Yum.

The fish were done in 14 minutes flat. Yum.

We enjoyed plating the fish whole and eating them that way. We poured a little olive oil over each fish and squeezed fresh lemon juice over too, and gave each another sprinkle of salt and pepper. You eat one side by lifting the skin up off the meat, with the backbone facing away from you on the plate, and then sliding the meat gently down toward the plate with a fork. It slides cleanly off the bone, but you just pay attention to make sure you don’t get the occasional stray bone. And then turn it over and eat the other side. And don’t forget the cheeks! Tiny and fun to eat, just down from and a little behind the eyes. We could taste the thyme and garlic in the fish.

A wonderful summer meal; it made me feel like our back deck was perched up in Tuscany or Sicily. Enjoy!