Perhaps mousse is a misnomer, but it certainly sounds sexier than trout spread.
There was a time (like now) that I didn’t really care for fish. I eat it because I know it’s good for me, but my preference is steak. Or vegetables. Or pretty much anything other than fish.
Fortunately, this delicious smoked trout mousse doesn’t make me think I’m eating fish.
It has lots of other flavors that I love: garlic, onion, lemon, dill, and smoke.
The first thing you do is simmer some aromatics (in this case I’m using black peppercorns, celery, scallions and lemon) in water. This is called a court bouillon.
While the trout gently poaches in its fragrant bath, beat cream cheese in a stand mixer for about 5 minutes. You want to loosen up the cream cheese and make it fluffy.
And then you can beat in the other aromatics you’ve been chopping while the fish poaches and the cream cheese is beating (I love multi-tasking), namely garlic, red onion, dill and chives.
And a little liquid smoke.
That’s my favorite part. I love liquid smoke but a little goes a long way, so don’t measure the teaspoon the recipe calls for over the cream cheese mixture, in case you over pour. I’ve done that and it’s not pretty. Or tasty.
After the fish poaches (it will take about 10 minutes), remove it from the court bouillon and let it cool.
After it’s cool, remove the skin and break the trout into small chunks.
Add it to the cream cheese mixture and mix on low for about a minute. You don’t want to “cream” the fish. You could just mix by hand at this point but 1 minute in the mixer isn’t going to hurt anything.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think the mixture in the bowl above looks all that appetizing, but dang it, it tastes fabulous, and you will forget that you are even eating fish.
Fortunately, they make these darling crocks (I found mine at Fry’s but I’ve seen them at The Container Store, too) and a crock full of smoked trout mousse is just what you should take to your next party.
Whether you call it smoked trout mousse or smoked trout spread, this appetizer is a keeper.
Smoked Trout Mousse
(adapted from my own cookbook, The Great Ranch Cookbook — yes, I can do that. You can adapt it, too, if you’d like.)
Makes about 4 cups, enough to fill two, 2-cup crocks*
For the court bouillon:
8 cups water
1 lemon, cut in half
2 ribs of celery, thinly sliced
4 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
For the mousse:
6 trout fillets (about 2 pounds)
1 pound cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
2 tablespoons fresh chopped chives
2 tablespoons finely chopped (almost minced) red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place the water in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Squeeze all the juice from the lemon halves into the water and toss the spent halves in, too. Add the celery, scallions and whole black peppercorns. When the liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat to low. Add the trout fillets, skin-side up. Gently poach (the water should not be bubbling) the trout until just done, about 8 to 12 minutes depending upon the thickness of the trout. Remove fillets and let cool.
While the fish is poaching, beat the cream cheese with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer. Beat for 5 minutes. The cream cheese will be light and fluffy. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the fish) and beat another minute or two. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again until all the ingredients are blended evenly into the cream cheese.
When the fish is cool, remove the skin and discard. Break the flesh into chunks and add to the cream cheese mixture. Beat on low speed for just a minute or so, long enough to incorporate the fish.
Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. You may want to add more lemon, or salt and pepper.
Refrigerate, covered for at least 30 minutes. Keeps four to five days, if covered in the refrigerator.
Serve with crackers or toasted baguette slices.
* If you cut the recipe in half, do not cut the court bouillon ingredients in half. You need that amount of water and aromatics whether you are poaching 3 fillets or 6.