Harvest Kitchen Series: Creamy Trout Chowder
Like most readers, I’m not a master chef – just a guy who loves to hunt, fish, and eat what he harvests. If success afield and family schedule allows, this series will highlight a new game or fish dish each month. I’ll cover all the details from take to table, and everyone will benefit with a collection of easy, everyday meals harvested from nature’s pantry and celebrated in the home kitchen.
The 2022 Mentored Youth Trout Day found our family of four creekside rigging rods for our two-year-old daughter and six-year-old son to have some fishing adventures of their own. Two-foot “Dock Demon” spinning rods, snap swivels, sinkers, and size-8 hooks smeared with PowerBait were the rigs of choice when the lines hit the water at 8:00 AM.
My son, who’s practically a seasoned veteran by now, kept me busy scrambling up and down the bank with my net, catching and releasing all but one of seven rainbow trout in just over an hour. The one we kept swallowed the hook and wasn’t going to survive, so we added it to the stringer to be filleted for dinner.
My daughter made the most of her 45-minutes before tapping out, which we knew would be limited with her toddler-aged attention span. On her very first cast, she hooked into a gorgeous 16-inch brook trout with impressive girth and brilliant coloration. I’m confident it is nicer than any brookie I’ve ever caught.
Reeling it in, she was so excited she even high-fived me when we got it in the net. This being one of her first really nice fish (coupled with her father’s special affinity for brook trout), this one most likely will be going on the wall.
With my wife’s help she caught and released at least four or five more, which was wonderful to see… especially since she had been so excited to fish for weeks, going so far as to ask to wear her fishing vest during random evenings after dinner.
As a father, I love that my kids love to fish, and that it’s something we can all do together as a family. I’m grateful to the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission for providing this special day for the future anglers of our sport!
The day immediately following Mentored Youth Trout Day was cold, blustery, and checkered with snow squalls – the perfect weather to throw some wood in the fireplace and cook something hearty for dinner.
Since we only had two skin-on fillets from my son’s rainbow trout, plus a few convenient leftovers in the fridge, I decided to make a little go a long way by whipping up an easy trout chowder.
First, I lined a deep glass oven dish with aluminum foil and laid the fish skin-side down. Then, I dotted it with butter and sprinkled creole seasoning on the white flesh. This went under the oven’s broiler for about ten minutes until the fish flaked away easily.
Meanwhile, I diced up some onions and leftover baked potatoes we had on hand and threw them into a deep stock pot on the stove to simmer in two tablespoons of butter. By the time the onions were translucent, the fish was done, so it was then peeled off the skin, crumbled into slightly crispy golden flakes, and thrown into the pot with the root veggies.
I then dumped in a bag of frozen broccoli and some leftover cooked asparagus, about two cups of milk, and a half cup of ranch salad dressing. That simmered in the pot for a good 20 minutes to soften the broccoli, and then I added a half-cup each of shredded Monterey jack and sharp cheddar cheese, finishing it off with a liberal grinding of black pepper and another dash of the creole seasoning.
Once melted and stirred thoroughly, the chowder was ladled into large ceramic mugs and topped with Italian-style salad croutons for a crunch to complement the creamy.
The Table Takeaway
This turned out just as delicious as I had hoped, fitting to be served at a restaurant. Because my baked potatoes, broccoli and asparagus were already pre-cooked, it really didn’t take long to prepare, and using the oven’s broiler setting made light work of the fish. The aluminum layer on the glass dish made cleanup even easier.
Served with a full-bodied wine by the crackling fire, the creamy chowder, thickened with cheese and emboldened by the zesty ranch dressing was the perfect comfort meal on a cold and nasty day. It’s also a great way to use up fresh fish when you don’t really have enough for a full meal.