RECIPES: PAN-SEARED PINK TROUT | PROVENÇAL SAUCE VIERGE
Ten minutes away from our house, there is an old stone bridge that passes over a river. Once in a while, just after crossing it, we would spot a car with its nose in the forest at the beginning of a trail. An aura of mystery always surrounds these cars parked in unexpected locations. What are these people up to? Who knows, maybe this is a famed mushroom picking spot the locals stubbornly refuse to give away? Or perhaps they are innocent picnickers? Eventually we venture in through a tunnel of mossy stones and silver cobwebs on the left, and a quasi-precipice on the right, taking a zigzagging path down to the water.
A lone figure perched on a rock surrounded by the gently foaming current holds out a fishing rod. Behind him the bridge arches over the water, revealing a stone house with smoke slowly billowing out of a chimney. It turns out we live in a fisherman’s paradise. The river that passes by our house is not just any river but the Lignon, a hot-spot for wild Fario trout. A friend who owns a restaurant here (more on that to come) told me he once met a Japanese fishing enthusiast who had come to our region in search of the famed fish, with its delicate flesh and mouthwatering taste. He even took years of French classes for the sole purpose of this trip!
I myself haven’t fished in years, the last time being while living in northeastern Brazil. I tried fly fishing in Bahia with a local friend who didn’t know exactly what he was doing, and neither did I, so we ended up catching no fish. But we had beer. Two fishermen in a small boat drifted by us. The sun was bright and the boats swayed, revealing heaps and heaps of shrimp under green nets. We exchanged beer cans for a bucket of shrimp, which was more than enough to make a sumptuous moqueca, a typical Bahian seafood stew, cooked with locally-produced palm oil. That was the saving grace of my one and only fishing experience. Maybe I’ll stop by that old-fashioned fishing shop displaying rods and reels in the town-center of Yssingeaux later this week…
The hills are steep, descending a ravine going away from the bridge, looking over a green, gaping mouth crowned with stones — some shaped by the water and others by man. It is always cooler down by the river where the water meets air. We observe patterns of foam covering pools of still water — parallel half circles, vectors in all directions, amorphous blobs dotting the tableau — creating an effect akin to a Van Gogh night sky or beard. A hummingbird whizzes by close to the water, dipping its beak for a split second and disappearing in the distance. The morning cold is gone and the midday warmth makes me crave tomatoes. We make a Provençal sauce vierge, using ripe tomatoes from the end of the summer with lots of Portuguese olive oil, garlic, basil and parsley.
As we prepared the trout (alas, market-bought), we found ourselves humming Pretty in Pink, by The National — probably a result of free association with the pale pink flesh of our trout fillets. And with Pretty in Pink in my head, so many other images follow. Music often marks a period of one’s life, and for me The National is the beginning of living with Adélaïde in Paris, a set table on a weekday morning for butter and honey tartines and breakfast tea, long Sunday afternoons listening to French public radio, cooking and reading…
Pan-seared pink trout & Provençal sauve vierge | Serves 2
- 2 (pink) trout fillets
- all-purpose flour
- a few sprigs of rosemary
- fleur de sel & black pepper
- On a plate, evenly coat the trout fillets in a little bit of flour.
- Heat up a pan on low-medium heat and melt some butter. Pan-sear the trout, turning it every minute to cook it evenly until it’s nice and golden on both sides. Season and add the rosemary half-way through.
The sauce vierge:
This Provençal sauce accompanies all kinds of seafood wonderfully.
- 55g virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- 200g tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 2 anchovy fillets (optional), minced
- the juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 tbsp finely chopped basil
- 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
- fleur de sel & black pepper
- In a pot, heat up the olive oil and garlic. Add the diced tomatoes and anchovies and simmer a few minutes on low heat.
- Add the herbs and lemon juice and season according to taste.
- Traditionally, this sauce is served hot, but you can also refrigerate it and serve it cold.
Serve this dish with potato purée (you can use a food ring for presentation), whole steamed potatoes, string beans or rice…