When my friend and photography mentor Chris Bohnhoff asked me if I’d like to do a little mushroom hunting and cooking project with him a couple months ago I was thrilled. He has a sort of series he does involving chef’s and some of their varied talents. Check out some of his other great work HERE, at his website.
The focus would be on cooking in the moment and using ingredients growing in the area. First we would hike around a bit to see what wild edibles we could scrounge up to play with. Afterwords we’d cook some food-a couple simple dishes, incorporating what we found during our outing.
Chris and I shot a couple ideas back and forth on what might be fun to cook, eventually we came up with a loose outline. We picked two entrees: one based around duck, and one with rainbow trout, as well as a giant cast iron pan full of chanterelles that would be shot sometime, depending on the light settings and how the weather behaved.
My mind, as always, was a whirlwind of ideas. When the time came to cook the trout, I had switched most of the ingredients around to use some things I didn’t expect to see on our hike, like anise hyssop and wild Szechaun peppercorns/prickly ash. In Japan they cook with the leaves of prickly ash, and call them “kinome”.
I thought it would be fun to use the aromatic leaves alongside their tingling, lemony berries. What I ended up doing with the leaves was using them to wrap the trout, an idea I got after hearing Chippewa Indians used to wrap fish in burdock leaves before cooking.
As I cooked, we spent time shooting the ingredients, playing with different ways to view the prep, but I think that the most important thing was at the end of it all, we all sat down and ate together. This wasn’t the sort of food stylized food you see on billboards and ads, it was real food that we ate, and it was delicious-a little magic in the woods.
In addition to shooting the dishes we ate, Chris worked on a fun little video too. Let me tell you though, “fun little video” really doesn’t do it justice. He has an exacting eye for his art. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case the rainbow trout. You be the judge though. Here’s the video:
I’m including the recipe for the trout dish, its really great. Seasoning the cavity of the trout with the Szechaun peppercorns perfumes the meat with this lemony flavor I can only describe as…haunting. You don’t get the tingly effect from the berries this way, but all of the aroma comes through. It’s a great way to use wild peppercorns if you find their mouth numbing sensation a bit odd. Wrapping the trout in the kinome leaves helps the skin not stick to the grill, but there is enough space in between the leaves to still get a nice char here and there on the skin.
GrilledTrout Wrapped In Kinome Leaves with Fennel, Pepper and Hyssop Salad
If you can season and wrap the trout ahead of time and allow it to sit for a couple hours, the flavor of this will be more intense. It takes time for the scent of the kinome leaves and the berries to perfume the meat.
Serves 2 as an entree
- A wood fire grill would be best, but any grill will work.
- Butchers twine.
- 1 whole rainbow, brook, or brown trout
- Kinome leaves (prickly ash), cut to be the same length of the fish
- Young, green, Sichaun peppercorn berries, chopped to yield 1/2 tbsp
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp melted lard or high heat oil, like canola or grapeseed
- 1 recipe fennel-sweet pepper salad with anise hyssop (follows)
- Pickled maitake mushrooms recipe here (optional recipe here)
- Build a fire. Trim the fins from the rainbow trout. Season the inside of the trout cavity liberally with the chopped Szechaun peppercorns, then season the inside of the trout cavity, as well as the outside with salt and pepper.
- Lay down some butchers twine. Bruise the kinome leaves by rubbing them with your fingers. Then lay down the kinome leaves on top of the twine. Place the trout on top of the leaves, then place more leaves on top of the trout. Truss the trout with butchers twine, then brush the whole thing lightly with the lard.
- Cook the trout on the grill for 6-7 minutes on each side, rotating the fish around if you notice the grill has spots hotter than others. If the fire is nice and hot, you’ll be able to still get caramelization here and there on the skin, even though its wrapped in the leaves. Remove the trout from the grill and allow to rest for a minute or two before you snip the twine, remove the leaves and filet. Remove the meat from the fish (being careful for bones) and serve with the fennel salad alongside and the mushroom pickles.
Fennel-Sweet Pepper Salad With Anise Hyssop
This is a variation on a salad I made for my friend Mitch to impress his mother on a trip home years ago. He informed me it’s been a family favorite ever since. A great salad for summertime, when eating hot food doesn’t sound good to me.
For the camping shoot with Chris, I added some additional ingredients. The original salad only contained fennel, peppers, red onion, parsley, tarragon, vinegar, salt and olive oil.
Serves 4 as a garnish to fish, chicken, or pork.
- 2 bulbs of fennel
- 1 sweet pepper, any color except green (they’re bitter)
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 1 Tbsp walnut oil
- 2 tbsp chopped pickled ramps, plus 1 tbsp of their pickling juice (optional-recipe here) 1/4 of a Red onion can be substituted
- Fresh anise hyssop, about 2 tbsp, shredded by hand
- 1/4 cup dandelion capers (optional-recipe here)
- If using a red onion, peel the onion and then half it. Reserve one half for a different project, you only need a 1/4 of the onion for this dish. Shave the onion as thin as possible with a knife. Season the sliced onion with a 1/4 tsp of salt, and 1/4 tsp sugar allow to macerate for 10 minutes.
- Remove the green stalks from the fennel and then cut each bulb in half vertically. Shave each 1/2 bulb of fennel thinly on a mandoline, avoiding the core.
- Make an incision in the top of the pepper, tracing around the green top. When you have traced around the entire green top, remove it and the seeds will come out along with it. Quarter the pepper vertically, then remove the white pith and any remaining seeds. Julienne the pepper 1/8 in thick. Combine the fennel, peppers and remaining ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the seasoning for acid using the pickled ramp liquid.
- As the salad sits it will wilt and weep liquid, which functions as a sort of natural dressing, drain it lightly before serving so it doesn’t become a puddle on your plate.