Searching for Trout
Croatia prides itself on its fish dishes, which is certainly fair and commendable, but some fish seem more savoury than others. Thus, many Croats in the continental Croatia will primarily reach out to the markets of their cities for seafood, while freshwater fish remains somehow side-lined. And when it comes to freshwater fish, it is often thought of fish stews and fatty catfish, while neglecting trout. Trout comes in large quantities, it swims in various rivers, is extremely affordable in both cost and preparation, and is lightweight and healthy. If you come across trout in fish markets, the recipe for choosing the right fish is just like any other - solid body, translucent mucus and clear eyes all point to the right hit.
The Californian trout is most commonly found, and the brown trout are rare but sweetest. Regions of Gorski kotar, Kordun and Lika and their rivers are rich in brown trout, but the law prohibits them from hunting, because only those from the fish farms can be found on the restaurant’s plate. It's hard to get rid of the impression that this is unfair, especially if one sits on the terrace of the Srakovčić Hotel in Karlovac, right on the bank of the Korana River. Here you can enjoy a trout fillet with buckwheat porridge and chard, a combination that is only imaginable on the continent, and which blends phenomenally with continental white wines such as Miraz Chardonnay.
The Korana is clear and fast-paced, just the way trout prefer it. However, some are not familiar with this, so they think that trout can swim and hunt their prey happily in the Adriatic! At least, if you believe the product found on the shelves of some Croatian stores, which captures the title: "Trout from the Adriatic Sea". Genetic modification of trout has led in some parts of the world for the fish to be farmed in the sea (mostly in mixed fresh and sea water), but this is not yet the case in Croatia. A thorough aquaculture education and ichthyology in general may be required! Another interesting thing is linguistic: trout comes from the Slavic adjective "pjstr", which means colourful. So, trout is a colourful fish!
To make it even more colourful on the plate, the locals made sure to use old recipes for trout from the beautiful Gacka River. This karst beauty lures fishermen from all over the world to one of Europe's cleanest rivers. Fishing is strictly controlled here, but a real treat for lovers of trout is coming from a nearby fish farm: Lika trout in miller’s way. As the Gacka Valley is known for its mills, so savvy Lika people have become accustomed to preparing trout in coarse corn flour and baking it in lard. They got a beautiful crispy skin and great taste, which is more special since the fish meat is light and juicy. Such trout can still be tasted in the restaurant of the Hotel Zvonimir in Otočac, and for a real pleasure in the Gacka Valley during the warm months, one should visit the restaurant Vrilo Gacke, which, as the name implies, is at the very source of this river of Gacka. In Solin, on the bank of the Jadro River, there is a similar combination, because here the trout are baked in pura or polenta. This is a custom with many rivers where mills are built. A little further, in Slavonia, trout are prepared in bacon, with home-cooked gnocchi and spices, all of which should be followed with good white wine.
As the trout story is the story of clean rivers, so quickly from the Korana and Gacka we reach the river Dobra. It arrives in Karlovac as a calm watercourse, but in its highland basin, the Dobra is almost wild, with many rapids, especially good environment for trout. Even here it is not possible to find trout from the river itself, but beneath the mighty Klek is a well-known Gorski kotar fish farm, from where fresh trout are procured by the Hotel Frankopan in Ogulin. The trout are prepared with the almond leaves here, introducing the palate to the unexpected combination of mild nuts and fish. Such a great trout body gives joy to any imaginative gourmand who will devise various ways of preparing this fish.
Most often, though, both guests and hosts prepare grilled trout with a side dish of chard and potatoes. This taste and aroma may be too easy for hunters to pursue new ways of preparing trout, but grilled trout nevertheless provide an unmistakable taste for fish and river freshness. Thus, one can enjoy the Kamačnik stream near Vrbovsko in the restaurant of the same name, which lures especially during the summer heat. This queen of the fast rivers has been recognized in Croatian cuisine as a combination of continental and coastal, always in the best combination of both climates, which gives it the much needed recognition over many other freshwater fish.
TROUT A LA MILLER About 1 kg of trout of 20 dag each, well cleaned and rolled several times in 30 dag of salted and peppercorn corn flour, to which you added 1 tsp Vegeta natur. Roast the fish by turning them in a deep pan with 2 dl of oil, so when they catch the crust on both sides, remove and degrease on absorbent paper and serve hot, covered with 1 lemon juice and side dish at will. Best served with hot potato salad.
GRILLED TROUT are cleaned on the outside and inside and pepper and salted. Roast them on hot grills on both sides until they have a crust. Serve immediately with grilled, melted butter, can also be sprinkled with pine nuts and attached at will.
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