Monday, May 30, 2011

Trout baked in Clay

18–21 dried cornhusks (the kind used to make tamales)
18pounds nontoxic Terra Cotta Cone 04 to 5 clay (about 3 pounds per trout)
6whole fresh trout, about 12 ounces each
teaspoons kosher or sea salt
teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
12green onions, grilled
12large sprigs thyme
12sprigs whole fresh sage, or 18 sage leaves
12strips applewood-smoked bacon

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
Soak cornhusks in warm water about 10 minutes, until soft and pliable. Remove from water and set aside.
Divide clay in six equal portions and cut one portion in half. On flat work surface or cutting board, use rolling pin to roll out, as you would pastry dough, each of the two lumps of clay to about ¼ inch thick. Make sure clay is about 1 inch larger than trout on all sides.
Open each trout, and season inside with salt and pepper. Stuff 2 grilled green onions into cavity, then add 2 sprigs thyme and 2 sprigs sage (or 3 sage leaves). Fold trout halves together. Wrap two strips bacon around fish, one near the head, the other near the tail.
Arrange two cornhusk sections with tapered ends pointing outward, to form a sort of cornhusk canoe. Wrap trout in husks, placing a third section of cornhusk on top. Overlap cornhusks so that no part of trout is exposed. Using cornhusk ties (rip one husk into small strips), tie cornhusk securely around fish at nose and tail, making sure fish is completely covered by husks. (You’ll need 3 cornhusks for each trout; depending on size, some may require a fourth husk.) Cornhusks help fish bake evenly and keep it from sticking to clay.
Place both pieces of rolled-out clay lengthwise on work surface. Place cornhusk-wrapped trout on one piece of clay, cover with second piece, and pinch edges together to seal. With knife, make 3–5 slits in top layer of clay. Place on baking sheet and set aside.
Repeat above steps until all trout are stuffed, wrapped in bacon and cornhusks, and sealed in clay.
Place clay-covered trout on baking sheet and bake in oven 20 minutes. (I usually use both oven racks, with 2–3 trout on each sheet.)
Trout is completely baked when color of clay has changed from dark to light; remove from oven. When clay is cool enough to handle, crack open with kitchen mallet. Clay will easily peel away from cornhusks and can be saved for future use.
Serve trout whole in husks, or cut off head and tail, make an incision down backbone of each fish, and remove spine, resulting in two fillets.

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