Rainbow trout, whitefish, huh? Said about five times as I roved the River Forest Whole Foods looking for a better cell spot. Whole Foods did have a whole case full of fish: halibut, salmon, tuna, sustainable and not, it's just as a localvore, we are forced to eat from our foodshed. To us, local fish meant Great Lakes whitefish, sold at Whole Foods as fillets or Rushing Waters rainbow trout sold head-on but mostly boneless. Sure it's a bit of a conceit, to ignore all the ocean fish, even the farmed catfish from North Carolina, but we believe in local. I heard trout. Bony, I mentioned. Huh, trout? Trout? OK. I took the trout.
Local fish matters to us for a few reasons. Aside from frozen lamb and off-season asparagus, is there more miles on a consumable? Take Whole Food's squid, while vast amounts of squid, in season, can be found off or Rhode Island Whole Foods was shipping them in from Greece. One example. The distance matters, but even more, taste matters. Fish tastes better fresh. C'mon. We bought whitefish at Robert's (2916 W. Devon Chicago--see below) that was alive the day before. Was any of the ocean fish at Whole Foods.
Really fresh fish is just so good. Try some freshwater fish and you will find out. That's the last reason. We are on a mission to expand the market for local fish. Create demand. Help the environment for sure, but also more demand will make the local fish options that much better.
Making the trout could not have been easier. An oven pre-heated to 350, salt pepper (fish needs a heavy hand with the salt), a solid Le Crueset pan, a spritz of olive oil (not local), a spritz of white wine (not local) and bake until done, about 20 minutes. The fish was so fresh that the skin turned so blue a Frenchmen would have belted the Marseillaise as proudly as they did here (who does not get a bit teary at that scene!). Boiled local potatoes the obvious side. The trout came a few days after a whole roasted whitefish.
Like an old transaction on Maxwell Street, we mock challenged Arturo Venegas, who ably carries on the traditions at Robert's (he can explain to you which fish may be kosher but are still now blessed by the CRC). Fresh, he unfolded the whitefish to show us innards still crimson, practically beating. As I said, the fish was alive the day before. About following the recipe in last month's Saveur, I roasted the fish whole.
I will concede a few drawbacks to the local fish. It's surely not clear how much Great Lakes fish one should safely eat, and probably twice in a week is enough. Culinary-wise, the fish can be a bit softer. OK, the whitefish is a lot softer than tuna or salmon. You know it's fish. And bones, there's always bones. You have to handle the bones, but if my daughters can deal with the bones, cannot you. Eat local fish.