How to Cook Trout Au Bleu
This recipe for whole trout was a favorite meal of Ernest Hemingway
When Ernest Hemingway dreamed of trout, he dreamed of it this way: cooked “au bleu,” as he first encountered it in Switzerland, which “preserves the trout flavor better than almost any way of cooking.” It’s rarely encountered that way, nowadays, for one chief reason: In order for the trout to turn blue, the fish must be killed almost immediately before cooking. (The color change derives from a chemical reaction between vinegar’s acid and the trout’s slime coating.) For anglers willing to keep their trout alive (or as fresh as possible), this isn’t an obstacle. If you’d like to prepare this as a Hemingway-esque streamside lunch, try skipping the salad. Make the court bouillon ahead of time, and transport it in a clean jug. Bring it to a boil in a pot over a campfire and proceed as directed.
What You Will Need
• 4 live trout
• 2 cups white wine vinegar
• 2 Tbsp. salt
• 2 carrots, roughly chopped
• 2 onions, quartered
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 sprig each thyme and parsley
• 6 peppercorns
• 6 slices bacon, chopped
• 1 head broccoli
• 1 head cauliflower
• 2 Tbsp. olive oil
• 1⁄4 cup cider vinegar
• 1 tsp. mustard
• 1⁄2 tsp. honey
• 1⁄2 tsp. paprika
• 2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
• About 4 Tbsp. melted butter, for serving
1. Make the court bouillon: Combine the white wine vinegar with 8 cups of water in a large stockpot. Add 2 Tbsp. salt and the carrot, onion, and bay leaves. Tie together the thyme and parsley with kitchen twine and add as well. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes. Add the peppercorns and continue to simmer the court bouillon for another 15 minutes. Use a handled strainer to remove the solids from the liquid, discarding the solids. Keep the liquid warm.
2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cook the bacon in a medium sauté pan until golden but not quite crispy, then drain it on a paper towel, reserving the rendered bacon fat. Cut the broccoli and cauliflower into florets of similar size, discarding the thicker broccoli stems, and place on a sheet pan. Drizzle the florets with the olive oil and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are just tender and darkened in spots.
3. While the vegetables are roasting, make the vinaigrette: Measure the reserved bacon fat. You should have about 1⁄3 cup; top off with more olive oil if you’re short. Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, honey, and paprika; then slowly, in a stream, whisk in the bacon fat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. When the vegetables are done roasting, place them in a serving bowl with the bacon. Add the vinaigrette along with the parsley and stir gently to combine. Keep warm.
5. Bring the court bouillon to a rolling boil. Kill the trout with a quick sharp blow to the head, then quickly gut it, taking care to handle it as minimally as possible. (Do not rinse it.) Dip the trout into the boiling liquid and let simmer for about 5–6 minutes for small trout and up to 10 minutes for larger trout, or until the fish is just cooked through and the meat is beginning to flake. Remove the trout from the pot and let drain on a cooling rack or cutting board.
6. To serve, arrange the fish on plates with the roasted vegetable salad. Dress the fish with the melted butter and a sprinkle of salt.
How to Gut a Trout
What Would Papa Drink?
“Your nose will tell you when the trout are boiling,” Hemingway wrote, about trout au bleu, in a 1923 essay on fishing in Europe. “Then after a while you will hear a pop. That is the Sion being uncorked.” Hemingway’s descriptions are so rousing that we’ll defer to him for the wine pairing. Sion isn’t a wine but rather a rugged wine-growing region in Switzerland, where the star is a white varietal called Chasselas. The 2016 Robert Gilliard Les Murettes is the embodiment of this elegant grape that made Hemingway swoon, and worth seeking out.