The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 6, 2012

‘Happy place’ nice escape from turkeys

By Chris Ellis
For The Register-Herald

— There’s something about the cool mountain waters that quiets my soul. Perhaps growing up on a river bank or simply living in a state that has so much water is the cause of my internal magnet to be drawn creekside.

Regardless, I like to fish and all the senses that accompany the experience. A warm spring afternoon with a gurgling creek that holds trout is medicinal, and simply put, I needed the meds.

I had to take a break. Between the unpredictable weather and even more unpredictable turkeys, I was starting to show my threads. I needed calm before the storm. Pursuing the wily Tom turkey in the second week of the season, I needed to go to my “happy place” and enjoy the finest southern West Virginia has to offer — an afternoon of trout fishing with my son on an unplanned outing.

With his school clothes still on, we threw caution to the wind and stood in the midst of the spring wildflowers and casted our baits in hopes of a willing participant as the puffy, white clouds signaled a change in weather was coming. Trying not to get our good shoes muddy, we hopped on rocks and walked where it was grassy alongside the pale-green waters.

As our stringer became heavy, we discussed the presentation meal and our plans for the family to enjoy the catch of the day. The menu was set and we decided that a rainy day was the perfect time for fish stew.

And it was.

Rainy Day Fish Stew Recipe

Catch trout.

Cut off head and remove entrails.

Place trout in glass casserole dish and give each side of trout a quick spray of Pam.

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees or so for 15-20 minutes, depending on size of trout.

Meanwhile, add chopped onion (2 medium) and garlic (2 cloves) to olive oil and sauté. Cook until translucent and smelling good.

Add parsley (about a cup or so) and give it a good stirring.

Add chopped tomatoes (about 2 regular-sized or a can of diced) to the pan.  I also like to add some tomato paste if I have some handy for added flavor and color (a couple of big spoonsful).

When everything looks dandy, add a cup or so of dry white wine and give it a good stir and let it bubble.

Remove trout from oven.

Place trout on a cutting board and run knife along lateral line. With a fork, lift meat from rib cage, exposing entire skeleton. With one side of meat removed, you can either lift skeleton from remaining meat or flip the trout over and repeat. The skin will literally peel off the meat, leaving boneless, skinless trout goodness.

If you need to eat right then, add trout pieces and fish stock (enough to make the stew look like stew) to pan and simmer until you drool. Add salt and pepper to your liking.

I prefer to transfer a veggie mixture to a dutch oven or a crock pot. Add trout and fish stock and simmer until the house smells yummy. Add salt and pepper to your liking.

Serve stew with oyster crackers and Tabasco sauce and enjoy nature’s wonderful bounty.