When we visit my in-laws’ cabin in Blooming Grove, Pennsylvania, the guys do a lot of fishing. (Usually, after I catch one fish, I say I am good for the year!) Some of the fishing is done from a row boat in the lake, but most is done casting from the shores of one of several nearby streams. Most of the time, the fishing is catch and release. A couple times during our visit, however, we cook the trout for dinner.
Going into this visit, I was thinking about how I have paid more attention to my bitter greens food trend than my second trend of braised meats. (For the backstory on the Sargento flavor journey and a complete list of Rick Bayless’ top ten food trends, click here.) Given the season–warmer weather calls for more salads than slow cooked roasts–and the fact that I live in an area where a broad variety of local greens are readily available, this makes sense. But I got to thinking that braising fish is a terrific option during any season.
Although we often think of braising as a long, slow cook useful for breaking down the connective tissue in tougher cuts of meat, braising refers more broadly to the use of liquid to slowly simmer the meat in a covered pan, whether on the stovetop or in the oven. Where fish is concerned, this translates into a rather quick cooking time and an exceptional way to maintain moisture and tenderness in the delicate meat.
Because many types of fish are fairly bland, I got to thinking not only about what ingredients would create a delicious braising liquid–which would ideally be thick enough to create an accompanying sauce for the fish–but what ingredients could top the fish to bring additional flavor and texture. Enter bacon and blue cheese.
Although this meal may seem–dare I say?–gourmet, it is really quite easy: Simply sauté the onion and tomato. Pour in a little wine or stock before adding the fish, covering the pan and simmering briefly. Then top with the blue cheese and bacon mixture and broil for a minute or two. It is that easy!
To me, the flavor of blue cheese pairs beautifully with all the flavors contained in this recipe. I love how the all-natural Sargento crumbles become melted and a little gooey under the broiler. The brief broil also ensures crisp bacon; and a little bacon really goes a long way in flavoring this dish. The combination of the two may even convert a non-fish lover.
Because cheese is not frequently paired with fish and many people feel intimidated where cooking fish is concerned, I was excited to try this recipe and delighted with the positive response it received. A definite “make again” recipe, as my family says. It would be fun to take the cheese-fish pairing another step using any mild, readily available fish such as tilapia and use this recipe, swapping out the blue cheese for Sargento’s 4 State Cheddar. You could even exchange the bacon for crisp prosciutto and use the 6 Cheese Italian blend. If you use a different fish, be aware that trout fillets tend to be fairly small and thin. When using large fillets, you may want to stick with four pieces, keeping all other ingredient amounts the same. Either way, if you try, I would love to read what you think!
Yields 4-6 servings.
- 4 pieces thick cut bacon, cooked and crumbled (if using regular bacon, I recommend 6 pieces)
- 1/2 cup Sargento crumbled blue cheese
- 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 large tomato, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (could substitute low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock)
- 6 trout fillets (from 3 whole trout)
- Freshly ground pepper
- Fresh parsley for garnish, optional
Cook the bacon in a large skillet (with a lid for later use) until it is crisp. Drain on paper towels. When cool, crumble and mix with the blue cheese in a small bowl. Set aside.
In about a tablespoon of the bacon grease (or olive oil if you previously cooked the bacon) sauté the onion over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato and continue to cook for 2 minutes or until the tomato begins to break down. Pour in the wine and simmer for another minute or two.
Add the fish, skin side down, and sprinkle lightly with freshly ground pepper. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until the fillets are just barely cooked through, about 4 minutes. You will want them to be mostly opaque through the center. If you are substituting a different fish which is thicker, you may need to braise a few minutes longer. Don’t hesitate to make a small cut and peek inside if you aren’t sure if the fish is nearly cooked. Better to undercook and return to the heat than overcook and dry out the fish.
Remove from heat, top the fillets with the bacon and blue cheese mixture, and broil for 1-2 minutes or until the blue cheese is beginning to melt and the bacon is crisp. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, if desired, and serve immediately.