Sunday, September 25, 2011

Skillet trout

I guess I'm not ready to give up on blogging entirely. I am thinking, though, of morphing The Hungry Dog into something broader,  posting less frequently but about more things, not all food-related. Don't worry, nothing too heady--just stuff occupying my brain.

The first is trout. While grocery shopping a week or so ago, I stopped to admire the whole butterflied trout in the fish case. They were very lovely, with that silver-iridescent skin. Also, cheap. I got one wrapped up to go.

Once home, I had to decide what to do with it. Sometimes I can be very creative; sometimes I'm a total blank. What I decided on was a little on the blank side: lemon slices and rosemary. But actually, it was lovely! I opened up Mister Trout, stuffed him with the goods, and baked him in a skillet at high heat for 12 or 13 minutes. Delicious!

I only have a "before" picture because the after ones didn't look that different and I was in a hurry to eat it.

A few nights later I was talking to my sister on the phone about trout and we started reminiscing about this dish my dad would make sometimes, pan-fried whole trout with brown gravy, Chinese-style. I have no idea what was in that gravy, except I do remember green onions being part of it, which I confirmed with my mother. However, none of us know where the recipe came from.

I've have been mulling over how I might recreate this trout. I'm actually hoping some of my cousins that read this might chime in if their parents--my dad's sibs--ever made something along these lines. Pete, Carole, Tracey: I'm talking to you guys.


The second thing that's been on my mind for a couple of weeks is The Catcher in the Rye. While at my favorite bookstore a few weeks ago, I picked up a used copy of the classic. I found one with a cover I liked, a real old-school edition.

Now, of course I have read this book. I read it before high school, in high school, and quite possibly at some point afterward. But, reading it now, as a fully formed adult, was a totally different experience. Man, this book killed me. I just wanted to cry every 5 pages. I mean, it's funny, too--there's a lot of stuff that made me laugh out loud. But reading it from an adult perspective, I just felt like I wanted to save Holden. His depression is so clearly linked to the death of his younger brother Allie...and isn't this crazy, I didn't even remember he had a brother that got leukemia and died.

The book made me think about all kinds of things: Are there singular events that determine what kind of an adult you will be? How do you learn to face the future? Why are some people able to let the sadnesses of the world slide off them, while others find them debilitating?

One thing that I ended up really thinking about in the end was how glad I was the book was written, published (in 1951!) and that it is/was taught in schools. Sometimes I get so frustrated with the conservative dive this country is taking, it makes me worry that books like this won't get taught anymore. (Re)read it awhile you have the chance, before all the phonies have it banned.


The third thing on my mind is something I've been doing recently. One of my clients is a wonderful organization called Family House. They provide free, temporary housing to low-income families whose children are being treated at UCSF for life-threatening illnesses. They are a fantastic organization and I am honored to work for them.

I recently started volunteering there with Sophie, as part of their therapy dog program. Once a month, we visit the kids, who range from infant to teenager. Many of them are undergoing chemotherapy; for some of them, this is not their first round. Some are part of exciting but exhausting clinical trials. All  of them--and their parents--need a bright spot now and then, between treatments, appointments, and test results.

Here's Sophie about to go into her first day of therapy. Family House is located right next to Golden Gate Park, so I took her for a long walk first to get some energy out. Now she's getting focused.

The kids really love Sophie. There was a teeny girl there the other day--only two--whose father told me she was generally very afraid of dogs and would cry when she saw them. Not so with Sophie. She's extremely docile, you know. The little girl petted Sophie's head, fed her a biscuit, and even let Sophie lick her face.

Another boy, about 13, who was rather shy, hung out with us for the whole hour. He told me that Sophie reminded him of his four dogs at home, who he missed very much. He just wanted to be around her.

There's something about this experience that makes me happy, in spite of it being rather difficult. Not for me--I don't mean to imply that I'm suffering. But, you know, I wish I could fix these kids. No one should have to go through this kind of pain when they are so young. But, I'm glad I can do this one thing for them. It's not a lot, but it's something.


  1. Wonderful post! I think this proves that one doesn't have to be confined to one kind of blog or another...humans are complex and your blog can reflect that.
    I hope we get some insight into the mystery trout sauce, it sounds promising---and Sophie is the cutest. I have two Bichons who could never in a million years be therapy dogs (they need therapy themselves).

  2. I think you should go in any direction you want with your blog, Samantha. We'll all still be reading you with interest!

    That sauce sounds mother made Egg Foo Yung frequently and she served it with a gravy. It had scallions, soy sauce, sherry and cornstarch in it as I recall. Might be some recipes online.

    So many books like The Catcher in the Rye that were on our high school reading lists would be more enjoyable read as adults. I remember thinking that about Return of the Native when I re-read it years later. Besides, I think it may be difficult for an adolescent female to relate to Holden's angst.

    What you're doing with Sophie is wonderful. Difficult, but wonderful.

  3. Hi Samantha! On trying to recall Dad's recipe for the trout, I think that he made a sauce combining chicken broth, soy and/or oyster sauce, sherry or Chinese rice wine, garlic and/or ginger root. He did thicken it slightly with cornstarch too. I suggest that you try to recreate a combo of some or all of the above flavors. You might also add some sliced ginger to the trout's cavity before you saute it.
    This sounds much like Barbara's Mother's recipe for egg foo yung! Good luck with the next trout preparation. If I see a whole small trout down here, I'll try to duplicate Dad's sauce.

    Also, expanding your blog writing into your other interests and observations is a great idea for you and for us! The blog above is a super illustration of the many ideas and thoughts that permeate your daily life. Go for it! Love, MOM

  4. Love this post Sam, I think your blog has often been more about the writing than the actual food anyway (if that makes sense). Some food bloggers are defined by their food and by their recipes,I think you're a writer who happens to talk food. If you keep blogging, we'll keep reading :)

    That's a wonderful thing you're doing with Sophie.

  5. The trout looks delicious, I haven't had it in so long I've forgotten how good it is. Hope you can figure out your dad's recipe, that sounds amazing.

    Catcher in the Rye: I love Salinger. And yes, its hard not to be affected by Holden Caulfield whether you're a teenager or an adult. Great book.

    Love the picture of Sophie, I just want to kiss her little face! What a fabulous thing to share her with those kids and brighten up their day!

  6. I'm where you are with the blog. What began as food and still goes to food quite often is broader. That's where I'm going broader. And your trout looked good although I've never bought one. My dad fished when we were young and that's the only time we ever ate it - bout the time I was reading Catcher in the Rye.

  7. trout is best served simply, just like that! I loved that book too, thanks for the reminder, trying to find an audio version... So sweet that you and Sophie are able to bring some comfort to those kids

  8. Sue: Oh, thank you! And I will be sure to post about the trout sauce if I figure it out.

    Barbara: Your mom's sauce sounds about right, it's certainly a good place to start. Thanks!

    Mom: yes, I think you're correct about those ingredients. xoxo

    shaz: Thank you so much for the support--and welcome back! Can't wait to mosey over to your blog and see how your trip to NYC was!

    Connie: I feel so lucky that I can do this with really does make us all feel good.

    agrigirl: I've often thought your blog has a nice balance of food/not food've done a nice job.

    foodhoe: I wonder who reads the audioversion? I'm thinking of John Cusack for some reason...

  9. I loved this. A lot. Wow, now I know your name. Mine is Debby. xxoo

  10. I do love a good fish baked with some aromatics in its belly. Very interesting to learn a little more about the goings-on in your life. Thanks for letting us in! :)

  11. Cookie: Oh thank you! Debbie! :)

    camille: yep, I can't wait to make this one again.

  12. You took me on a journey with this post...You treated me with a trout dish, you reminded me of an American classic that I am ashamed to say, I have not read (need to change that), and you brought me full-circle with what's really important-life.

    I raise my glass to you.

    Your blog is your journey. We will be here to share it with you.


  13. hello, fish eyeball! that always creeps me out a little bit, but i'm squeamish like that. :)
    catcher in the rye is an amazing book, and not just because it's the key component of one of mel gibson's finest movies, conspiracy theory. :)

  14. Greetings from the Amish community of Lebanon Pennsylvainia.Richard from Amish Stories.

  15. velva: Well, aren't you sweet. And I highly recommend you read the book--you'll have no trouble finding a used copy somewhere...

    grace: I know, the fish eye is a little creepy, but I couldn't resist!

    Richard: Hi!

  16. I love the shiny skin of the trout. It is beautiful. I actually rarely cook a whole fish, so I give you credit for tackling it. I wonder if the brown sauce is simply the brown bits from the pan-frying that he does with the fish? Maybe he just adds some sherry wine or vinegar to scrap the bits and then add soy sauce or oyster sauce with some cornstarch to make it thick? Sounds delicious to make the fish simply as you did.

  17. I look forward to your blog regardless of the topic. While I love your recipes and have replicated many of them, I really love the story you write along with them. Like this post - fantastic! Thanks for sharing and giving me something good to anticipate every time I hop over to Hungry Dog. Have fun in Maui!

  18. My mom didn't particularly like trout. We only ate it because it was the only fish to be caught on Shasta fishing/camping trips. She would dredge it in cornmeal, panfry it and we'd have it for breakfast. I much preferred the little boxes of cereal you cut open and pour the milk into.

    When my parents went lake fishing, they would bring back black bass, pompano or (the dreaded) catfish. I don't really recall saucy Chinese dishes. She would steam them whole with black beans or mushrooms (or maybe even red dates) and finish with hot oil, ginger & scallions and drizzle of soy.

    But fish with a true sauce sounds good as it would be tasty over rice. May have to try that sometime!

    - Pete

  19. What a great way to volunteer and bring some sunshine to people's lives. Small acts of kindness really go a long way.

  20. Your first picture made me laugh, that trout seems to have a funny expression on it. Well I guess he is no longer LOL, now he is part of a delicious dinner.
    You got me feeling like reading the Catcher in the Rye again, its been a long time!
    Whatever track you decide to take daaahling, I know it will be interesting.
    *kisses* HH

  21. Aloha HD, we're back! Will send you some pix this week, but you definitely have to go to Star Noodle in Lahaina ( try the Vietnamese crepe, garlic noodles, pork buns (like Chairman Bao's style)and malasadas. The other don't miss places we'd suggest are Da Kitchen, Home Maid Bakery and Uhulani's Shave Ice.

    re the trout: I don't recall my mom making any whole fish with a gravy, but Chinese brown gravies are pretty basic, your mom covered all the key ingredients. I'll have to do a test on this one as well!
    xox, c&A.

  22. Ya know, I think the blog should be about what you want it to be about. We'll still eat (at least once a day!), so you'll always have food stuff to write about. Just let it fly and good stuff will come out.

  23. Ben: I think all of your suggestions are good ones. Thanks!

    Ash: thanks! Hey, coming to SF any time soon?

    Pete: this camping business surprises me. But, not the part about the little boxes of cereal. I especially loved Frosted Flakes...

    Jessica: we really enjoy doing it (me cuz it makes me feel good, Soph cuz she likes attention...)

    HH: you should definitely reread CITR.

    Carole: Star Noodle was rad.

    slimmy: xo