Cornmeal-Crusted Trout With Preserved Lemon Yogurt

October  4, 2022
1 Ratings
Photo by MJ Kroeger. Prop Stylist: Suzie Myers. Food Stylist: Ericka Martins.
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

I love a good fried fish, but oftentimes the result can be a too-thickly-battered, overcooked fillet. Enter cornmeal-crusted fried trout, lighter than air. Served alongside a punchy fennel slaw and a yogurt sauce spiked with preserved lemon this bright dish tastes like summer, but is hearty enough to take you through the seasons. There’s a few tweaks from standard fried fish that make this a standout.

First, I’ve turned to a long-beloved kitchen trick: soaking fish in milk. It may sound strange, but the milk does double duty here. The protein in the milk works to subdue any fishy odors (although we really recommend buying the freshest fish possible to avoid this!), plus it tenderizes the fillet. Since you run the risk of overcooking fish when frying, the milk acts as a safeguard to prevent it from drying out, leaving you with tender, juicy fillets.

Second, the usual approach to frying follows the principles of dredging protein in flour, egg, then a last coating of flour, cornmeal, or panko. I found in testing that this technique made the trout taste heavier, masking the natural sweetness of the fish. By lightly coating the filets in a cornmeal and flour mixture, the trout still gets a crispy, crackly exterior without weighing it down.

Note: I’m a huge believer that fish spatulas are one of the best multiuse kitchen tools out there, and that everyone should have one in the drawer. That said, this is the time to use it for its intended purpose, since trout fillets are nearly the same size and shape of the tool. If you don’t have a fish spatula, use two smaller spatulas to gently flip over the trout fillet.
Alexis deBoschnek

What You'll Need
  • Yogurt Sauce
  • 3/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 whole preserved lemon, seeded and minced
  • 3 tablespoons preserved lemon brine
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Fennel Slaw
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, stalks removed, bulb thinly shaved with a mandoline
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fennel fronds, roughly chopped (optional)
  • Trout
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 4 (6-ounce) skin-on trout fillets
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup neutral oil, such as safflower or canola oil
  1. Make the yogurt sauce: In a medium bowl, add the yogurt, mayonnaise, preserved lemon, preserved lemon brine, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  2. Make the fennel slaw: In a medium bowl, add the mustard, shallot, salt, pepper, sugar, and lemon juice and whisk to combine. Slowly add in the olive oil, whisking until smooth. Add the fennel, celery, and fennel fronds (if using) and stir with a spoon to combine. The fennel slaw can sit at room temperature until ready to serve.
  3. Make the trout: Place the milk in a long, shallow bowl or baking dish and add the trout fillets, making sure to fully submerge them. Let the trout rest in the milk for 10 minutes.
  4. While the trout is soaking, combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper, and paprika in a shallow bowl and stir to combine.
  5. Shake off the excess milk from the fillets, then toss in the cornmeal mixture, making sure both sides are fully coated, shaking off any excess. Discard the leftover milk.
  6. Heat the oil in a large stainless-steel or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, work in batches to add the trout, skin side up, to the pan and cook for 3 minutes without moving. Carefully flip over the fish and continue cooking for 3 more minutes, until both sides are golden brown and crispy. Transfer the trout to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain for 1 minute before serving.
  7. Serve the trout with the fennel slaw and yogurt sauce.

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Alexis deBoschnek is a freelance recipe developer, cook, and video host based in the Catskills.

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