A tale of roe

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Kevin anchoring the Queen Mary in our backyard

Kevin anchoring the Queen Mary in our backyard

Thanks to our trailer mishap, our boat is now anchored in our backyard; it may be the largest boat ever to grace the waters of our 110-acre pond. The fishermen who motor by, casting for bass, point and laugh, like it was the Queen Mary or something.

Since it was in the water, Kevin figured we might as well make use of it, and he decided to take it out for trout yesterday. There’s a 10-horsepower limit on the pond and the boat has a 70-horsepower outboard, so he attached our electric trolling motor to the transom and set out.

How, you must be wondering, does a trolling motor power a 19-foot fishing boat that weighs some 1600 pounds? Very slowly.

That’s okay, though. It’s even desirable. According to Dominic, the Zen Master of Trout who has pulled as many as thirty-seven fish (he keeps count) out of the pond in one day, slow trolling is the key to trout fishing. Yesterday, it worked. Kevin came home with a nice, fat, 16-inch fish. Smoked trout for dinner!

I planned the menu as Kevin cleaned the fish. He stood at the sink and sliced open the gut, and I heard a loud “Hah!” of surprise.

“What is it?” I asked from the living room.

“Come see.”

“Is it a good surprise or a bad surprise?” That’s what King Friday always used to ask on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and I’d always thought it an excellent question in the proper circumstances.  And you never know what might come out of a fish.

“Just look,” Kevin said, and held out the fish. It was filled with bright orange beads of roe.

A good surprise! A very good surprise.

The good surprise

Before ...

Now, I am not new to fish eggs. I’ve eaten the expensive black kind that come in a tin and the less expensive orange kind that come in a jar. I’ve eaten sushi rolled in the flying fish kind and omelets topped with the deep red kind. But this was the first time I’d seen eggs in situ.

The first step was obvious. I removed them from the fish and put them in a bowl. Step Two wasn’t so clear. I had a bowl of raw fish eggs, still attached to the membrane that had kept them from rolling around inside the fish, but no idea what to do with them.

A bare minimum of research indicated that I could do almost anything. You can eat fish eggs fresh, or salted, or brined, or cooked, or dried. The world was my oyster.

Although I include the occasional recipe on my daily food posts (listed on the calendar on the left over there) I don’t usually write in detail about the food I cook. There are many excellent cooks who do that very well, and I prefer to think my readers come here for my priceless insight and deathless prose.

This time, though, I’m going to tell you what I made for dinner.

I’d thought about making the smoked trout into a kind of fishcake, with mashed potato and sautéed onion, and I figured the eggs would be a fine topping. I did the best I could to separate the roe from the membrane (this is a tedious and awkward business – if anyone knows how to do it properly, please tell me), and then brined it for twenty minutes in a mixture of 1/3 cup kosher salt and one cup cold water.

... and after

... and after

Kevin smoked the trout and I made the trout cakes and put them in to pan-fry. When they were almost ready, I heated the roe, with a few tablespoons of sour cream, in a small saucepan. As the mixture warmed, I crushed some of the eggs with the back of a wooden spoon to give it a slight orange tint.

It was the simplest possible sauce, and it was creamy and salty and fishy and quite delicious. I was awfully pleased with myself. The trout cakes were even pretty good (the recipe is on the daily post), but the sauce was better.

And, after all, you can’t eat deathless prose.

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Comments

  1. Two things, on opposite ends of the spectrum, and which illustrate how conflicted I can be sometimes: my first reaction was oh too bad- so many hundreds of little trout that won’t be hatched (but then quickly realized you aren’t running a hatchery and probably don’t have a bucket of trout milt lying around). The second reaction was the memory of something I saw on TV where some fancy-pantsed Spanish chef smoked some roe in a wire sieve over some coals in his kitchen brazier, and they were evidently pretty good. I would have been happy with your concoction, though, especially if you’d offered something chilled and dry with it.

    And I like your deathless prose.

  2. Paula — I had the same thought you did when I saw those eggs, but I have been assured by the manager of the hatchery that stocks our pond that the trout don’t reproduce in our waters. The conditions aren’t quite right, it appears, and so the eggs never would have become full-blown trout.

    I also had the same thought about something chilled and dry — it was a Sauvignon Blanc.

  3. I do envy you your boat. Ultra fresh fish must taste divine. brilliant idea making a sauce with the roes.

    Your prose is almost edible.

  4. Michael Coutts says:

    Trout roe makes excellent bait for catching more trout. I cure the roe in borax and store it in a small canning jar in the refrigerator. Just before going fishing I take batches of 20-30 eggs and treble hooks and small pieces of an old pair of my wife’s old nylons, thread and make spawn sacks with the hook surrounded by roe wrapped in nylon. Make sure the top of the hook sticks out so it can be tied to the fishing line.

  5. MC — I had no idea trout were such cannibals! I don’t think I could bring myself to use it as bait, thought — I like it too much myself. You sound like a serious trouter — good luck out there.