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Salt-Crusted Trout

Francis Mallmann

Lesson time 12 min

“Oh! It’s so beautiful! I love you trout!” – Francis Mallmann Francis invented the infiernillo or “little hell” oven about 20 years ago to cook fish outside. Today, he proclaims his love for Patagonian trout and its magical taste as he fires up his small inferno to teach you how to make freshly-caught salt-crusted trout. “Once we fish something or kill an animal to eat it, we must respect who he is. And try to get the best out of him,” Mallmann says. That’s why he doesn’t add anything else to this recipe other than olive oil and salt. “Even adding lemon would be sacrilege,” he proclaims.   If you don’t have access to an outdoor space to build the two-tiered fire oven, Francis teaches you how to make this fish encased in salt inside your kitchen, too. And just remember: “There’s nothing sadder than an overcooked fish. It makes me cry.” So, don’t overcook your fish and make Francis Mallmann shed tears of sadness.

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– So this is a salt crusted fish. Today, we’re gonna do a brook trout. Very fragile, very short time in between two fires. This technique, they say that went from the Moors to Spain, and from there, home to Argentina. And it’s very, very delicious. So I have core salt here. What you do is, you encase the fish in salt and I’m gonna mix it up with the water. You have to wet it like sand beach so you don’t have any water floating. It has to be wet and no water in the bottom, you see. That’s why I added a bit more. This is perfect now, you see. It drank all the water. So now what I do, I put a bed of salt for the fish and then I cover it with salt. This fish doesn’t need anything, maybe a little olive oil at the end, even lemon will be a sacrilege. There’s a beautiful restaurant in Madrid called La Trainera. It’s been there for ages and they cook fish. And you know, when you ask for something for the fish and they say, no, you don’t need anything, sir, I’m sorry. If you want to put something, go somewhere else. Here you eat the fish like that. It is a big arrogant but it teaches people that once we fish something or kill an animal to eat it, we must respect who he is and try to get the best out of him. So I like that very, very much. La Trainera, in Madrid. So the fish is gonna go into that wonderful den-like oven. Very slowly so you don’t break the salt. We put it in there to cook. This is a little hell. This is something I invented like 20 years ago to cook fish outside, or maybe a bit more because this, you can do it in an oven, very hot oven or in a wood oven. But to do this outside, a fire on top, a fire in the bottom. And sometimes we cook fishes that are, you know, 20 pounders, very big fish. And they cook very fast if the heat is good as it is now. So I’ll probably leave this fish in for 20 minutes now, between 15 and 22. If you want to prepare this fish in an oven, let’s say you’re gonna do it for lunch, you wake up in the morning, you have breakfast and at 10:00 AM you start your oven at maximum heat, I would say that a three kilo fish would take about, in your home oven, 45 minutes, 1 hour. Don’t touch it, leave it there. And over time, as you do it and redo it, you will get to know not your fish, but your oven. You will understand how your oven cooks. And you know, maybe you take notes if you have an empty head like I have, but it’s very important that you start your oven three hours in advance so it’s piping hot, very important. I’m gonna check the temperature of my fish, see how that is going. It’s okay. There’s nothing sadder than an overcooked fish, makes me cry. You have to treat it very, very softly. I make a cut lengthwise on the top of the fish, all the way down. All the way down. I cut here too. And then I cut around the head, around the fin, and all the way down to, very slowly, to the end. So basically what we have here is, the skin is completely detached. And then I get a fork and I start rolling it very slowly. It’s a beautiful temperature, beautiful temperature. Look at it. It’s so beautiful. Ah, I love you, trout. There we go. You’ll see how it’s still slightly attached to the bone, which I love. That means it’s not overcooked. You see how wet it is. Take that bone out, carefully. This is a very fragile operation. And a drip of olive oil, that’s all it needs. Also, I put some salt on it. The salt doesn’t touch the fish, it’s very fast. It doesn’t doesn’t have any hold, so the salt doesn’t go in. So you add a little bit of salt and olive oil, and that’s all it needs. And then you feel this magic taste of the trout. I like it.

About the Instructor

Francis Mallmann, the pioneer of open-fire cooking, is South America’s most famous chef and is known for his rustic open-fire cooking style in wild and remote locations. Join the James Beard award-winning author and Chef’s Table star as he brings you on a journey into his kitchen in the Patagonian wild where he teaches you how to master the grill and his Argentine-style barbecue.

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