Wood Stove Rainbow Trout

whole raw trout stuffed with lemon and fennel

Cooking a whole fish in the wood stove or fireplace that is being used to heat your house is just so satisfying. Wrapping it tightly in foil ensures that there won’t be a mess in the wood stove afterwards. Wait until you have a good bed of coals with not too much flame before throwing your fish in so that it doesn’t burn. Since the size of fish, thickness of foil, and the heat in the wood stove are all changeable elements in this recipe, you’ll just have to use your best judgement as to when your fish will be done. If you pull it out and it’s not quite done, simply re-wrap it in foil and put it back in for a few more minutes!

  • Prep Time15 min
  • Cook Time20 min
  • Total Time35 min
  • Yield1 whole fish

Ingredients

For the fish

  • 1 whole rainbow trout (or other whole fish)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
  • Pinch of fennel fronds
  • 1 fresh lemon
  • Watercress (optional)
  • Butter

For the sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Juice of 1 lemon (approx. 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon brined capers, chopped
  • 1 red finger chili (optional)

For the salad

  • Mixed lettuce (romaine, radicchio, watercress, baby kale, arugula, iceberg, etc.)
  • 1/4 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 sweet or red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3-5 pickled Maitake mushroom pieces (optional)

Preparation

For the fish

1

Remove guts and gills from fish and rinse out cavity.

[You can get your fishmonger to do this if purchasing at the store.]

Light a good sized fire in the wood stove and let it burn down to glowing embers.

2

Sprinkle the inside and outside with kosher salt and pepper. 

Stuff the cavity with sliced fennel bulb, fronds, 3 thinly sliced rounds of lemon, a couple of small pats of butter, and a few sprigs of watercress if using. 

3

fish stuffed with vegetables on aluminum foil

Lay out a piece of foil several inches longer on each side than the fish. Rub the foil where the fish will lay with a piece of butter.

Place stuffed fish in the middle of the foil. Top with a couple of dabs of butter and a sprinkling of fennel fronds. 

4

Place another piece of foil the same size over the fish. 

Tightly wrap the edges, creating a seal by which nothing can leak out. 

If you are using particularly inexpensive thin foil, you may want to double up.

fish completely wrapped in foil

5

Place the foil wrapped fish on top of the embers in the wood stove and close the door. If doing this in the fireplace, keep the fish towards the back to catch radiant heat from the fireplace walls. 

foil wrapped fish in wood stove

6

Cook for approximately 10 minutes, then carefully flip, using tongs or heat proof gloves, and cook for another 10 minutes. 

Since the size of fish, heat from the embers, and thickness of foil are all variables, there is no way of telling you when the fish will be cooked to perfection. You’ll have to use some intuition here. 

7

Take the fish out of the wood stove and carefully open the foil, keeping clear of the hand and face burning steam. 

Use a fork to try flaking off some of the meat in the middle of the fish. If it flakes off easily, the fish is cooked. If not, it may need to go back in for a little while longer. 

For the sauce

8

Meanwhile, put the lemon juice and chopped garlic in a pot. Gently heat it up, letting the hot lemon juice soften the garlic, about 5 minutes. 

Dump the garlic/lemon juice in a bowl and set aside. Put the butter in the pot (don’t worry about rinsing it out) and heat over medium high.

Cook the butter, swirling often, until the milk solids begin to turn brown and everything starts smelling toasty and nutty. 

Add the capers, chilies (if using), and the garlic/lemon to the brown butter and give it a good stir. Keep warm. 

For the salad

9

Tear the lettuce(s) by hand and create a bed of it on a large (oval if possible) plate.

Scatter sliced fennel, onion, and pickled mushrooms on top. 

Putting it all together

10

Unwrap the fish and carefully transfer it on top of the bed of lettuce. Drizzle any juices in the tinfoil over the lettuce. 

Pour the butter sauce over the fish, saving a small amount to drizzle over the salad. 

Scatter a couple of fresh fennel fronds on top. 

whole roasted fish on a bed of lettuce

11

Serve whole, with diners eating fish and salad right from the serving plate. Be mindful of bones. 

Once the meat from one side is eaten, try to carefully lift the whole skeleton up in one go, which will provide you with a boneless filet on the bottom!

Enjoy!

fish skeleton on a plate in front of the wood stove

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