Thursday, April 4, 2013

At last! A recipe I’ve long coveted: smoked trout spread

Two summers ago, we were in Vermont, but Vicki was in Montpelier helping the widow of one of her flute teachers, while I got to spend a few days in Shelburne visiting a high school friend, Ellen Gurwitz. I occupied my days doing some design projects while she was at work and we spent the evenings catching up. I also had the pleasure of watching Ellen do her weekly internet radio show, Stone Soup, on WBKM. (It will be back on the air in just a few weeks. You should check it out!)

When we hit Saturday, the weather was beautiful and really warm, so a picnic was called for. Ellen had a perfect spot not too far south, right on the shore of Lake Champlain.

Since it was a spur of the moment decision, we decided to buy the food for our picnic. There’s a small store, the Shelburne Supermarket, very close by, so off we went. At the store we grabbed a nice bottle of wine, some bread, cheese, veggies, and fruit. I caught Ellen looking rather fondly at a small container in one of the coolers.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s a smoked trout spread they make here that I really like, but it’s pretty pricy, so I don’t buy it very often.”

Well, of course, I had to grab some of that. Once we got settled in our picnic spot with a spectacular view right across the lake to the far-distant Adirondacks in New York State, I was very glad I insisted on purchasing the trout spread. In a word, it tasted absolutely fantastic, the best I’ve had. When Vicki arrived the next day to pick me up, I rattled on and on about it and have been ever since. It was that good.

A few weeks ago, I had been talking to Ellen about the trout spread (again), and she said she’d drop by Shelburne Supermarket to see if by some chance they would share the recipe. Lo and behold, they did! I was over the moon when she emailed it to me.

I trotted down to Dominick’s at the St. Lawrence Market bought to two fresh trout filets. (You didn’t actually expect me to buy smoked trout, did you?) After a four-hour cure in salt and brown sugar with some added lemon zest and freshly ground pepper, followed by overnight drying in the fridge, Karel and I cold smoked them (applewood pellets) the next day for 4 hours, and I was ready to make my special treat.

The recipe, from Doug in the meat department at Shelburne Supermarket who developed the recipe, makes about eight pounds of the stuff, so it obviously required some cutting down for home use, but that proved pretty simple to reduce to one-tenth (about 2 cups-worth).

Even better is to be able to share it here with all of you, so I’d like to conclude with a special shout-out to Doug. If you’re ever in the Burlington area of Vermont, just drive a little south of the city on Highway 7 and stop in at this great, small, local supermarket to try some of the original trout spread. I know I certainly will next time we visit Ellen. The store has an excellent selection of fruits, vegetables and meat, plus any number of gourmet delicacies, many made in-house or locally.

An extra-special thank you to Ellen for doing the leg-work to get me the recipe!

As for the recipe, it’s simplicity itself to put together and quick, with a fantastic flavor. And it keeps for several days. What more could you ask for? It’s a perfect “make-ahead” choice for a before-dinner appetizer. Both times I’ve made it now, we’ve served it with our homemade crostini. The satisfying crunch of that provides the perfect foil for the smooth texture of the spread. For simple directions to make crostini, click HERE.

Shelburne Supermarket Smoked Trout Spread
Makes about 2 cups

1/2 lb smoked trout
1 Tbs minced shallot
4 tsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
2 tsp Frank’s RedHot sauce
5 oz whipped cream cheese
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley

1. Skin trout filet (if needed) and break it into as fine pieces as you can by hand.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Notes: The spread benefits from “resting” a bit to let the flavors develop, so I suggest, if you’re not serving it for a few hours, covering the spread with plastic wrap, and chilling it in the fridge until close to serving time. Take it out and let it warm up for a half-hour or so. If you’re making it reasonably close to serving it, just let the spread sit at room temperature for a half hour.

I also came up with an even faster method for making it without changing the requisite texture very much. After removing the skin from the trout, break it into smallish pieces by hand, throw everything into your mixer (not a food processor or blender!) and mix the spread on the lowest setting until everything is just blended and homogenized.

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