Trout fishing season in Maine usually starts on April 1 and runs all summer, but this year we had such a warm spring that “ice out” in ponds and lakes happened earlier than usual. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the agency in charge of stocking Maine waters with trout, decided to open the season early.

PAN-FRIED TROUT

This is the classic way to fry trout — the simple, tried-and-true method passed almost by osmosis from one generation to the next.

Servings: 4

4 pan-size trout, about 1 pound each, cleaned, or 8 small brook trout

1/2 cup milk, any type

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus additional if necessary

2 tablespoons butter, plus additional if necessary

Lemon wedges

Wash the fish inside and out, and trim off the fins with kitchen shears. Place the milk in one shallow dish. In another shallow dish, combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, and pepper.

In one very large or two medium-sized skillets, heat the oil and butter. You should have about 1/4 inch of the oil mixture in each pan. Add more oil or butter if necessary. Dip trout in the milk and dredge in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess. Place in the pan(s) and cook over medium to medium-high heat until well-browned and crisp on the first side, 3 to 4 minutes. If the fish curls up, which fresh trout tend to do, press with a spatula so that it cooks evenly. Turn carefully and cook on the second side until browned and crisp outside and the inside, when checked at the thickest part, tests done, 3 to 5 minutes. Be sure that the flesh has lost all its translucency, but do not overcook, or the trout will lose its flavor.

Remove from the pan, letting excess cooking oil drip off before transferring to plates. Serve with lemon wedges.

Note: The choice of whether to leave the heads on or not is up to you.

BROILED TROUT WITH TARRAGON AND LIME

Servings: 4

4 whole rainbow trout

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 small bunch fresh tarragon

1 small bunch Italian parsley

1 lime, thinly sliced

Lime wedges

Preheat broiler. Brush trout skin and cavities with oil and season with salt and pepper. Chop 2 tablespoons of tarragon and 2 tablespoons of parsley. Fill trout cavities with chopped herbs and lime slices and fold fish closed. Make a bed of remaining herb branches on a broiler pan and arrange fish on herbs.

Broil about 4 inches from heat source until skin is brown, about 5 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully turn trout over and broil until fish is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Garnish with lime wedges and serve.

 

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Dishing Up Maine” (Storey Publishing 2006) and “The New England Clam Shack Cookbook” (Storey 2008). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula.