The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


March 12, 2014

Andra Stefanoni: Old, new ways to prepare freshly caught trout

JOPLIN, Mo. — Those who have followed my project to spawn and rear trout at Roaring River State Park Hatchery know that it's only a matter of time before my 20,000 surviving 10 1/2-inch fish are big enough for the final phase of the project: to release them to the river.

Then thousands of anglers, including me, will cast from the bank in hopes of hooking one for their dinner plates.

And I'm OK with that.

When I was what my grandpa called "knee-high to a grasshopper," he taught me how to use a cane pole on the banks of his farm ponds. He stocked the ponds with catfish that often grew to be about as big as me, thanks to the fish food that Grandma and I tossed out of coffee cans from the back of his slow-moving truck each evening.

Grandpa also taught me how to clean the fish I caught so Grandma could fry them up for supper. She used just the basics: cornmeal, salt and pepper. And she plated it with something just as basic: baked potatoes, green beans and a bowl of strawberries -- all fresh from the garden.

I think it tasted so good because it was fresh from the outdoors right to our table, and it was one in which we had invested determination, skill and patience.

Same goes for the wild game my family and I harvest throughout the year. We put in the elbow grease, sometimes come home empty-handed and always have a much greater appreciation for what winds up on our plate.

When spring break arrives, we'll be headed to Roaring River to fill our stringers and, hopefully, our freezer. My husband's favorite way to prepare it is in the deep fryer right after we catch it, or to charcoal grill it with the skin on and stuffed with lemon and herbs.

But this year we're going to be adventurous and try something new -- something   not so basic. I turned to Missouri Department of Conservation's online recipe section, which is conveniently divided into categories such as "Game Bird Recipes,"   "Venison Recipes," and more. Many recipes include short videos to demonstrate preparation.

I picked the trout stuffed with crab cakes recipe as our first to try because I can use an egg from our chickens and onion and oregano from our garden.

I'll probably pair it with a wild rice dish, an earthy recipe that feeds a crowd, and a side of grilled asparagus, which is the earliest vegetable our garden produces. Happy fishing, and happy eating!


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