Here’s a primitive but fantastic way, from Finland, to “grill” a fish: Butterfly it, then nail it to a board and cook it by the reflected heat of a campfire. The meat derives flavor from the woodsmoke as well as the blistering, blackening board onto which it’s nailed. Even better: no pan to clean.
Trout on a Nail
– 1 trout, about 2 lb.
– 4 Tbsp. butter, melted
– 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
– 1 Tbsp. dry mustard
– 1 Tbsp. sweet paprika
– Coarse salt and freshly-ground black pepper
– Dill sprigs and lemon wedges, for garnish
1. After making a good, hot campfire, prepare the trout. Split the trout through the back so that it opens like a book, with the belly as the spine. Remove the backbone and viscera. Rinse the trout, inside and out, under cold water, then dry with paper towels.
2. Brush the skin side with some of the melted butter. Then nail the trout, skin side down, to an untreated oak, hickory, cedar, or other hardwood plank, ideally about 10 inches wide and 3 feet long. Six nails should do the trick. Be sure not to pound the nails all the way in–you’ll be pulling them out soon enough.
3. Combine the brown sugar, mustard, paprika, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Brush the trout with some of the remaining melted butter, and sprinkle the spice mixture onto the flesh, rubbing gently to make sure it adheres.
4. Make sure your campfire is roaring hot. In this situation, unlike most campfire-cooking scenarios, flames are helpful. Stand the board 12 to 18 inches from the fire, with the head of the trout at the bottom; prop it upright with a few sticks. The trout will cook from the reflected heat of the campfire in about 15 to 20 minutes. Check for doneness by flicking the meat with a fingertip to see if it flakes.
5. When the fish is cooked, remove the nails and transfer to a plate. Garnish with sprigs of dill and serve with wedges of lemon. Serves two.