I’m a big fan of trout, and have eaten and cooked it in many different ways. Trout is very popular in Romania. Growing up I ate trout more than any other fish. My relatives in Transylvania like to make it breaded and fried. In northern Romania I ate it grilled with various herbs inside it, baked with vegetables in a baking dish or in aluminum foil, baked in a salt crust on a salt bed the way I make it here, baked with olive oil and herbs, rolled in cornmeal and fried, fried in a garlic and vegetable sauce, and so on -- there are many Romanian recipes for trout. This is one of the fastest, especially if you can get your fish gutted. If you still have to gut your fish, don’t worry, it’s easy; I give you the gist of it below, under Instructions. By the way, you can also use this recipe to bake a dorade in a salt crust.
Trout Baked in Salt Crust with Thyme and Tarragon, Served with Romanian Garlic Sauce
This is a super easy and fail-proof way to bake fish, and the result, paired with the garlic sauce I give in this recipe, is absolutely incredible. A sure-fire way to relish fish.
As I said, trout is one of my favorite fish. I like the fact that its meat is not too fat nor too lean, not too flavorful nor too bland. For the latter reason, it goes wonderfully with some herbs out there, and can be accompanied by various sauces. Trout is also inexpensive in Romania, and, while not up there with salmon, still a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, salmon and trout belong to the same family of cold-water fish, Salmonidae.
Herbs that Go Well With Trout
The herbs most commonly used with trout in recipes I’ve seen or tasted here in Romania are parsley, dill, thyme, rosemary, and tarragon. My favorite, by far, are thyme and tarragon, together.
Ingredients and Instructions
Prep time 15 min - Total time 45 min
Ingredients for 2 servings
2 trout (700 grams / 24.7 oz) • 2 sprigs of thyme • 2 sprigs of tarragon • 1 lemon • 400 grams / 14 oz coarse salt • 8 cloves of garlic • 1/3 teaspoon low-sodium salt • 1 teaspoon olive oil • the juice of half a lemon • 2 tablespoons sour cream
1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C / 428 degrees F.
2. Gut and wash the fish, then pat it with paper towels.
(It's easy to gut a fish: just insert the tip of the knife into the vent and cutting upwards as you run the knife through to the head, and then scrape out the guts.)
3. In a baking dish, cover the middle section of the bottom, where you will lay the fish, with salt. Place the fish in a vitro-ceramic baking dish. If it’s a large dish, place both in one round, making sure though they are well apart, because they will yield some liquid as they bake.
4. Slice one lemon and add two slices in each fish.
5. Add one sprig of thyme and one sprig of tarragon on top of the lemon slices inside the cavity of each trout.
6. Cover each trout with salt, making sure the salt doesn’t get into the cavities.
7. Reduce the heat in the oven to 180 degrees C / 356 degrees and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
8. Make the garlic sauce (called "mujdei de usturoi" -- actually, more commonly just "mujdei", pronounced [moozh-day] -- in Romanian) by crushing the garlic cloves in a garlic press, waiting 10 minutes for the allicin to form, then rub the garlic with one third of a teaspoon of low-sodium salt, add the juice of half a lemon, 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of sour cream.
9. When the fish is ready, you’ll find the salt will come off in patches. When you sit down to eat the trout, you’ll notice its skin comes off easily as well.
10. Serve the trout with the garlic sauce and nothing else.
A Word on Allicin
Allicin, the active component in chopped or crushed garlic (the finer you get your garlic, the more allicin is formed), has all kinds of health benefits. It has antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, and antiviral properties (see, for instance, the abstract of a 1999 study, Antimicrobial properties of allicin from garlic).
This active principle in garlic boosts the immune system and helps fight cancer. Regarding this latter activity, allicin was shown to inhibit the proliferation of certain cancer cells (see the abstract of a 2000 study titled Effect of purified allicin, the major ingredient of freshly crushed garlic, on cancer cell proliferation) and even induce the death of cancer cells (see the abstract of a 2004 study titled Allicin (from garlic) induces caspase-mediated apoptosis in cancer cells).
Allicin also lowers your bad cholesterol, your triglyceride levels, and your high blood pressure (see, for instance, the abstract of a 2000 study, Effect of allicin from garlic powder on serum lipids and blood pressure in rats fed with a high cholesterol diet).
Hope you’ll enjoy this recipe as much as I do, and that by tasting this trout baked in salt, you'll be tempted to eat more fish -- if you do like and want to eat fish. I'm always reminded of Communist billboards here in Romania which said "No meal without fish." (There wasn't much meat in those times for those who didn't live in the countryside.) Well, maybe fish every time is too much, but I certainly try to have fish a few times a week.
I promise you that if you like fish and garlic, this dish will make for a memorable experience. Poftă bună / Bon appétit!