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Into the Frying Pan

The mild-tasting trout elicits admiration, particularly when it comes from the kitchen of Josie Le Balch

April 02, 2006|Ann Herold | Ann Herold is West's managing editor.

You would think it's a love-hate relationship, what chef Josie Le Balch feels about trout, but mostly it's love.

As a child, Le Balch--who dazzled the critics at Saddle Peak Lodge and Remi before opening her own restaurant, Josie, in Santa Monica--really wanted a horse, but what she got was trout. Any time her father, Gregoire Le Balch, the chef at L'Escoffier in the Beverly Hilton, took a vacation, he would gather Josie and her brother Albert into the station wagon and head for Utah or Washington or Oregon to fish. Josie, who adored her dad, would follow him into the streams. The trout they caught would go straight into the frying pan, and that's the way Josie still likes it best.

Trout seemed a natural for the menu at the rustic Saddle Peak Lodge, pan-fried and for a while even stuffed with crab. "But it was too much," she says of the crab. "Trout has such a mild flavor." At Josie, she dresses it with a lemon broth and vegetables that change with what's available at the farmers market.

She brings out a trout to show how a prep cook has removed the tiny pin bones with tweezers. The biggest pain with trout is separating it from its skeleton. This rainbow trout is from "a raceway" in Idaho, which is how trout farms describe the stream-fed habitats in which their fish are raised. Le Balch is pleased with the trout's freshness and flavor. Yes, she says, wild trout have "more punch." But no one comes to her with wild trout, unlike her experience at Saddle Peak, where hunters--their wives exasperated by the overflow in the freezer--would show up with deer and other game for sale.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 02, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Trout recipe: Today's West magazine does not include the measurement for extra-virgin olive oil in a recipe for roasted tomato oil dressing that accompanies a trout recipe by chef Josie Le Balch. It should be 1/4 cup.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 16, 2006 Home Edition West Magazine Part I Page 5 Lat Magazine Desk 1 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
The recipe for roasted tomato oil dressing that accompanied a trout recipe by chef Josie Le Balch ("Into the Frying Pan," Style, April 2) did not have the measurement for extra-virgin olive oil. It is 1/4 cup.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 23, 2006 Home Edition West Magazine Part I Page 7 Lat Magazine Desk 1 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
The recipe for roasted tomato oil dressing that accompanied a trout recipe by chef Josie Le Balch ("Into the Frying Pan," Style, April 2) did not have the measurement for extra-virgin olive oil. It is 1/4 cup.

It's hard to imagine how anyone could make a living selling wild trout, says Don Disraeli at Kanaloa Seafood, a wholesale and retail outlet in Santa Barbara. He buys trout from Clear Springs, an enormous farming operation in Buhl, Idaho. Clear Springs trout are also available at the ever-bustling Santa Monica Seafood and, at the other end of the price spectrum, Costco.

In fact, all trout in U.S. markets are now farm-raised, says the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch, which monitors the industry for health and environmental issues, and gives its highest rating, a "best choice," to farm-raised rainbow trout.

Le Balch gets her trout from an L.A. wholesaler, Pacific Pride Seafood, which buys its fish from Idaho Trout Processors, another farming operation in the Snake River community of Buhl. Although Le Balch could buy fillets deprived of their fins, head and all bones--the last by a computer-operated jet wash, the latest thing in deboning--she prefers the whole trout. "She wants the authentic representation," says Pacific Pride owner Charles Love.

When I call Idaho Trout Processors to see if I can buy from them, I'm told: "Sure you can, honey. Just come by our store." Would that be in Idaho? "Oh, yes, but I can put you in touch with someone in your area who has our fish." I'm in luck. By June, Pacific Pride expects to have a retail store at 3264 Mines Ave. in Boyle Heights. Some Idaho trout and fresh beans and corn from the farmers market, and I'm thinking maybe I can cook like Josie.

*

Campfire Trout With Lemon Nage Vegetables

From chef Josie Le Balch

Serves 8

8 10-ounce whole rainbow trout, gutted and boned (head and tail attached)

4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

2 tablespoons butter, divided

Salt and white pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Open the trout and season with salt and white pepper. Place two large nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillets over medium heat. Allow the pans to become hot before adding 2 tablespoons of oil to each pan. When the oil is hot, add 1 tablespoon of butter to each pan. (Adding the butter after the oil will keep the butter from burning.) When the butter is melted, close the trout and place in the pans. Quickly saute the fish on one side for about 2 or 3 minutes, or until the skin starts to crisp. Then turn over the trout and place the pans in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes; the trout should be slightly opaque in the center. When the trout are cooked, remove from the pans and place on serving plates. Keep warm.

*

Lemon Nage Vegetables

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 cup fresh corn

1 cup Blue Lake or other fresh green beans, blanched and cut in small pieces

1 cup yellow wax beans, blanched and cut in small pieces

1 cup scallions, finely chopped

1 cup lemon grass broth (recipe follows)

1 cup coconut milk

1 cup chopped tomatoes, peeled and seeded

Salt and black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons capers

1 lemon

3 tablespoons roasted tomato oil (recipe follows)

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