JOPLIN, Mo. —
Some years back, I had hopes of fly fishing in Slough Creek in the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park. Slough Creek is world-famous for cutthroat trout, but its popularity makes it a tough place to get a backcountry permit for overnight camping.
Even the wilderness has to be rationed in a kind of lottery.
Looking for alternatives, I talked with a backcountry ranger about Rescue Creek, which is in the northwest corner of the park. Because it's a much smaller creek, I specifically asked whether it sustained a trout population. She assured me that it did, although it didn't have a reputation for fat fish, and anything I might catch there would probably be small, she advised.
OK by me, I thought. So, I got the permit and before long was hiking through the sagebrush country. A few hours later, I was sure I had arrived at the right place, but something didn't fit. I found the designated backcountry camping site easily enough, but if I wasn't in the wrong place, then the creek was. Not only were there no trout, there was no water.
I hiked up a nearby ridge. Still nothing. Oh well, the site was beautiful, dusk was at hand, and since this was one of the few backcountry sites in the park that allowed a fire, I opted to forget about it and just enjoy the moment.
In the middle of the night as I tried to take my mind off the fact that I was surrounded by critters that were higher than me on the food chain, it occurred to me I hadn't asked enough questions. I had hiked to the far upper end of Rescue Creek during a dry summer, while the fish -- not to mention the water -- were in the lower end. There might have been water running through here in the spring, but there was none now. Lesson learned, I thought.
I hiked out that next day and satisfied my hunger with a trout dinner at Roosevelt Lodge.
Not long ago, I again applied for a permit at Slough Creek and got picked for a backcountry site in the lottery, but I had to cancel that trip for some reason. ... a relative's wedding or a family reunion. I can't even remember.
Slough Creek is still on my life list, and I'll make it there some day. Soon, I hope. In the meantime, I'll just have to be content with the trout fishing closer at hand.
Roaring River's catch-and-keep season begins Friday, and although we avoid Opening Day, my family tries to get down there once a month. We have a ritual that includes stopping for doughnuts around 4:30 a.m. as we're leaving town, fishing a few favorite holes, going for a hike later in the morning or early in the afternoon, and fueling up with ice cream for the trip home.
Dinner means trout.
Following are two of my favorite recipes as well as two others I found recently.
Start by cooking the trout -- on the grill or in a slow cooker -- then peeling the meat away from the bones, being careful not to get any of the tiny bones mixed in with the meat.
Take 1 tablespoon of butter, dice up a medium green pepper and add 2 tablespoons of chopped onion. Cook it in a skillet until it is tender.
At the same time, fry several strips of bacon -- how much is up to you, but you can't have too much -- and set aside some of the bacon grease to mix with the cooked vegetables.
Cook and drain the water from a bag of frozen corn, about 10 ounces.
Grease a 9-by-9-inch baking pan and add together 2 cups of the cooked trout, the corn, 1 cup cracker crumbs, 3 tablespoons of melted butter and some fresh parsley. Throw in 1/2 teaspoon celery salt, 1/8 teaspoon paprika and the same amount of black pepper. The mixture also requires a 13-ounce can of evaporated milk, then add the cooked green pepper and onions along with crumbled-up bacon and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese.
Bake it all at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes. It's done when you stick it with a knife and it comes out clean. Melt a little cheddar cheese on top and you're ready.
This is a favorite online recipe, posted by the chef of Rainbow Grille at Tall Timbers Lodge in New Hampshire.
Make almond flour from 1/2 cup of sliced almonds pulverized in a food processor. Add 1/2 cup regular flour and blend it with the almond flour. Add another 1/2 cup almonds only partially ground up, for texture. The more almonds and less flour, the better the results, I've found. Add some sliced almonds to the mix and press the trout fillet into the mix, coating both sides.
Cook it in 4 tablespoons of butter in a nonstick pan on medium heat. Cook it for about 6 minutes, skin side up. Squeeze a fresh lemon over the fish and wait about 1 minute before flipping it over. This helps brown the fish.
Take the fish out of the pan and set it aside. Clean out the pan, turn the stove to high and heat up the pan. Add 1/8 cup of Frangelico and flame it after the pan is hot. After the flame subsides, add 3 tablespoons of butter, stirring the pan and letting the sauce thicken. Then drizzle the sauce over the cooked fish and serve.
Missouri 'crab' cakes
This one comes from the Missouri Department of Conservation's "Cooking Wild in Missouri" cookbook, which I got last year. I haven't tried it yet but will this spring. There are many more recipes on the Missouri Department of Conservation website (mdc.mo.gov).
Take 1 cup of trout meat stripped off the bones and add 1 cup bread crumbs, 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 2 finely chopped green onions, 1 heaping tablespoon cilantro or parsley, 1 heaping teaspoon hot red pepper and the juice of a small, fresh lemon. Also add 1 egg, a few pinches of salt and pepper and 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
Shape the mix into 2-inch patties, dipping it into the remaining bread crumbs. Fry until the bottom is golden brown, then flip it over and brown the other side.
Orange pecan trout
This one comes from Kathleen Bryant's "Western National Parks' Lodges Cookbook," which I got for Christmas this year. I haven't tried it, either, but will soon.
Place 2 cups of orange juice in a glass baking dish and add the zest of 1 orange. Place 4 trout fillets in the orange marinade and chill it for 2 hours. This recipe calls for 2 cups Panko, which are Japanese bread crumbs, and 1/2 cup chopped pecans. Mix them in a dish.
Melt a stick of butter in a large saute pan and remove the trout from the marinade, pressing each fillet into the trout mixture, skin side up. Make sure the flesh side of the fish is coated with crumbs.
Place the trout, skin side up, in the butter and cook until it is golden brown, about 6 minutes. Turn over the fillet and cook it for an additional 3 to 5 minutes.
Andy Ostmeyer is metro editor of The Joplin Globe. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org