Cooking Wild Recipe: Trout & Fiddleheads in Lemon Sauce

Here’s a catch and a pick paired up for a perfect feast. Eating “locally-grown” never tasted so good.

I love foods that live up to the high standards of eating within what’s fashionably known as “the 100-mile diet”! To me, it’s a satisfying feat to eat foods that come from within a hundred mile radius of ones own home and especially rewarding to experience the pride of indulging in a “self-sufficient” meal.

Of course, even better is the fact that both the fish and fiddleheads used in this feast are caught and gathered from a local lake and nearby woodlands–perhaps even on the same trip into outdoors…

When it comes to fresh caught trout, nothing beats pan-fried fish! Smaller pan-sized fish can be fried whole with heads and tails left on if the pan is large enough to accommodate them. This makes an attractive presentation. Larger trout can halved or filleted for frying.

My choice of a frying pan is always cast-iron as it holds and distributes heat evenly which is needed in order to produce crispy, golden skin without fear of burning.

Many cooks chew the fat over what fat is better to fry fish in! Some prefer butter, others lard, shortening or vegetable oil. Dad vouched that nothing tasted better than fresh trout fried in bacon drippings. For this recipe I find that grandma’s old “half butter and half vegetable oil” trick works great. The butter instills tempting flavour, and the oil– being able to take the heat, prevents the butter from burning. The end result is a nutty flavoured skin that’s hard to beat.

Fiddleheads are the deep, green unfurled heads of the ostrich fern and you can hunt for them on moist grounds around the edges of swamps and marshes, river and stream sides and in open meadowlands from early spring when the heads grow tight to the ground until they begin to gain height and unfurl into feathery ferns.

If you can’t fiddleheads growing in the wild, don’t fret for you can buy “wild” BC fiddleheads in the produce department of larger supermarkets throughout their growing season. On the other hand, if you do run into a plentiful woodland patch you may want to pick a few extra feeds to put up for winter use. Simply shuck off the brown “oniony-skin” type papery scales, blanch, dry on paper towels and freeze in baggies or containers.

So now it times to cook this 3-step meal.

Lemon Sauce

Melt ½ cup butter in small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add 1/3 cup flour and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup fish or chicken stock and ½ cup white whine, whisk until smooth. Lightly beat 3 egg yolks with 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Blend into the flour mixture and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest and pinch of fresh or dried dill. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Hold warm. This makes about 2 cups. If it is more than you need, excess sauce can be saved in the fridge and used for dressing asparagus or other steamed vegetables.


Remove shucks from fiddleheads, wash in cold water. Cook fiddleheads in boiling water for 3 minutes or steam in a steamer until fork tender. Drain, discard cooking water and hold hot.


Roll fish in seasoned flour. Set on waxed paper while heating the pan. Put equal parts butter and vegetable oil into suitable-sized cast-iron or heavy-bottomed skillet to make a nice frying depth of fat. Heat to sizzling, slip in fish and fry until underside is crisp and golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. Flip—strive to turn the fish only once per side, and cook until other side is crispy and golden. Fish is done when it flakes to the probe of a fork. Do not overcook or flesh will be dry.

Place trout on platter. Surround with cooked fiddleheads and drizzle lemon sauce over top. Garnish with lemon wedges.


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