Cornmeal-crusted trout with mashed root vegetables and crispy leeks

So I was wandering around New Seasons, as is my wont these days, wondering what to make for dinner. It’s citrus season again, so I grabbed some blood oranges. Even though they’re not particularly sweet, I’m always suckered into buying them for their novelty. It’s an orange! That isn’t orange! Here, take my money.

I was sort of hankering for seafood, but after a recent flirtation with food poisoning (waited a day to cook fresh mussels, ate one or two, and realized they smelled like ammonia – luckily, came away unscathed) I wanted to play it safe with a nice salmonid. Salmon, steelhead and trout are so ubiquitous in these parts that kids growing up here get a shot at catching their very own at least once. My grandpa used to take me and my brother fishing at Rooster Rock State Park in the Columbia River Gorge when we were little. We’d always giggle at the fact that there was a nude beach at this park, and never caught anything but brown bullhead catfish. My grandpa usually ended up swinging us by the rainbow trout farm at the end of the day so we wouldn’t come home empty-handed.

My mom would dutifully dredge the cleaned trout in some cornmeal and fry them up in a cast iron skillet. I think this was the only way I ate fish (or in fish stick form) until I was a teenager. Some wheels need no reinvention, and this is one. That said, I did want to doll up the cornmeal a bit, and so to it, added blood orange zest and fresh thyme.

I got about a half inch of grapeseed oil hot, then tossed in some sliced leeks to get nice and crispy. This is an idea I totally stole from Peter, and it’s a good way to use a leek that languishing in the crisper. Also on the verge of going to waste was a bag of parsnips and a few carrots. Feeling the sweet root veg vibe, I simmered these in milk and mashed them with lots of butter. I fried the fillets of Idaho trout in the leek-flavored oil and in only a minute or two, dinner was ready. It was totally worth the mess.

Serve with a Pinot Prosecco and wedges of tart blood orange.