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Steelhead of my Dreams

Posted on: May 17th, 2010

As an avid fisherman, I have always dreamed of wrestling a nice fat Steelhead, but only their smaller cousins the Rainbow Trout live in our local rivers, so I’ll have to wrestle the Steelhead of my dreams in my kitchen. Get facts and tips below along with two tasty recipes.


Chile Citrus Steelhead over Colcannon or Jalapeno Potatoes – recipes below.

What Are Steelhead?
Steelhead are descended from the Char family, as are Salmon, Trout, Arctic Char and more – so if you like one, you’re bound to like them all! Steelhead is actually a sea-going rainbow trout, and a favorite of the Pacific Northwest (they revert to rainbow trout colors in fresh water). There are some instances where Steelhead have been introduced to inland lakes and rivers, it was done locally at Cheeseman Reservoir many years ago, but sadly they did not survive.

Salmonoid Secrets
Rule number one with all these related fish is quick cooking with high heat to brown quickly before they overcook and dry out – learn more about this technique here.

Simply seared with Tony’s Cajun or Spicy Harissa Seasoning

Great fishes don’t need a lot to make them great – sometimes the less you do the better! This fish shines with just a sprinkle of my Chile Arriba! seasoning and citrus zest. Other excellent seasoning choices include our Z Blend, Spicy Harissa, Orange Pepper, or Trout and Salmon Seasoning – look for our Tony’s Seasoning Blends. You can also give them 20-30 minutes in your favorite marinate before cooking.

The skin on all these fishes is not only edible, it’s delicious! Just scale the fish before cooking, this can be done by scraping the blade of a knife sideways across the skin, or even the tines of a fork. I learned in Japan to scale and then remove the skin, salting it for a bit before rinsing, patting dry and broiling or searing until crisp; it’s amazing with rice or over a salad.

Also in Japan they sprinkle salmon, char or steelhead fillets with Kosher or Sea salt minutes or hours ahead to give them a light to heavy cure, increasing flavor and changing the texture slightly. Another outstanding Japanese method is marinating them in a sweet sake and miso blend, find a tasty version of this recipe with other recipes and videos here.

Simple Chile Citrus Steelhead Recipe

Also great with arctic char and red meat trout fillets.Steelhead fillets

Tony’s Chile Arriba! Seasoning, or a blend of chiles, salt, pepper, herbs and dried citrus zest
A mist or drizzle of oil
Fresh orange, lemon and lime zest
Season fillets with Tony’s Chile Arriba! to taste.  Preheat a medium to medium high grill, grill pan or heavy skillet (use a skillet if you want to make the sauce below). Zest citrus and wedge orange and/or grapefruit segments if you wish to make a sauce.
On the Grill or Grill Pan: Mist grill with oil and immediately add fish fillets, skin side up.  Grill to brown lightly – about 3 minutes depending on grill temperature and cooking grate.  Turn and cook to medium rare – about 130 degrees internal. In the Skillet: Preheat skillet over medium high heat, drizzle with vegetable oil, or a combination of oil and butter. Place fillets in pan face side down and sear to brown, about 2-3 minutes, turn and repeat – taking care not to overcook.

Remove from heat, top with citrus zest and serve – or make the sauce below and serve over the top with citrus zest garnish.  Wonderful served over Colcannon Potatoes OR Jalapeno Mashed Potatoes. 

Sauce Lover? This recipe is great as is, or with a pat of butter and a squeeze of lemon, but if you are a sauce lover, here’s a great idea for a melted citrus sauce…  Before you start cooking the fish, remove the segments from an orange and a grapefruit (peel past the white pith, cutting each segment away from the membrane separating them, and then squeeze the remaining ‘core’ and reserve the juice). Once the fish is done, remove to a warm plate and add juice and fruit wedges to the hot pan along with a splash of wine. Cook the wine and juice down by 50%, melting the fruit, taste and adjust with agave nectar or honey and seasonings, and then finish with a few pats of butter  – it’s stunning, and actually pretty easy!
Steelhead with our seasonal Strawberry Papaya Salsa – sear with our Z Blend and finish with any warm fruit salsa

Back-Woods Steelhead w/ Whiskey Maple Butter

4-8 slices of Tony’s thick-sliced peppered bacon (or your favorite)
2 pounds Steelhead, Char or Salmon fillets, scaled, rinsed and patted dry
Seasoning salt (Tony’s Cajun or Trout and Salmon Seasoning suggested)
Whiskey Maple Butter*

Prepare Maple Whisky Butter, reserve warm. If you enjoy the crispy skin, scale fillets.

In a heavy cast iron skillet, fry bacon the way you like it – drain on a paper towel, cool, chop and reserve. Drain all but 2-3 TBS of the bacon fat. (This is more bacon than you need, but you know how fast freshly cooked bacon disappears!)

Place scaled fillets in pan, skin-side-up, and pan fry until brown, about 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and carefully turn over. Add 1-2 TBS Whiskey Maple Butter, and finish cooking – 4-5 more minutes.

Plate salmon with side dishes and sprinkle with bacon, drizzling spoonfuls of Whiskey Maple Butter over the top.

*Whiskey Maple Butter

½ cup Canadian or Irish Whiskey, or your favorite
¼ cup maple syrup
butter to taste, softened

In a saucepan with tall sides, place whiskey and syrup or sugar – simmer over a low flame to reduce to ¼ cup. Whisk in pats of butter to taste, set aside and warm slightly when ready to serve. Serves 4.

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