Smoked Trout Spread with Mascarpone, Shallots, and Dill

by Louise Ayer

I am sitting here in our kitchen on our orange couch in white out conditions. This is not only the first blizzard of our Northeastern winter season, it is essentially our first snow storm. It has been too warm for snow, but not today. Our two big bird feeders are swaying dramatically outside the kitchen window, but even so are loaded with finches, chickadees, blue jays and the occasional flicker, eating as fast as they can to maintain themselves in this harsh climate. It is cozy in our kitchen home, and we have our very dear old friends, Priscilla and Bart Tablante, here for a week. They arrived just before the storm. We are all sitting, reading books, and chatting, and I am writing to you.

I am excited to be sending you a true family favorite: Smoked Trout Spread with Mascarpone, Shallots, and Dill. I just mixed up a bowl full of this savory delight in order to check our proportions, and, of course we all had to take a taste and give our opinions. As always, it was universally loved.

Smoked fish is a longtime favorite of ours, both in sandwiches and served on crackers as a delicious appetizer for parties and guests. Trout is a wonderful fish with flaky white meat and a lot of flavor. It’s lighter in texture than tuna and has a less fishy flavor than salmon, haddock, or other delicious fish found in the deli counter that are best eaten on their own. Trout begs to be combined with smooth, creamy Mascarpone, and seasoned with some fresh herbs, shallots or garlic, and citrus. It whips up into a truly sublime spread in a matter of minutes.

Serves 6 – 8
1 cup Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup minced shallots
2 tbs finely chopped fresh dill
1 1/2 tbs (or more) fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups small pieces smoked trout filets without skin and bones (8 ounces)
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Trimmed inner celery stalks, cut into sticks
Assorted crackers (Milton’s Multigrain Organic crackers is our personal favorite)

Note: Mascarpone is a soft, slightly sweet Italian cream cheese that is sold in the cheese section of most supermarkets.

Prepare the trout: If using packaged trout, remove it from the package and peel off the skin. Remove any large bones by sticking a knife under them and gently pulling up. If using a whole smoked trout, open the fish lengthwise, sever the spine from the head, and gently remove the bones. Peel off the skin using a knife for guidance, and remove any remaining larger bones. Coarsely chop the trout fillets with a sharp knife.

Combine the ingredients. Stir the mascarpone, shallots, chopped dill, and 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice in a small bowl to combine. Add the trout and stir gently to blend. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired. Transfer mixture to a small serving bowl. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator.

Tip: You can prepare the spread up to one day in advance. Let it stand at room temperature one hour before serving to take the chill off.

To Serve. Place the bowl on a platter and surround it with crackers and celery sticks.

Variation

My wonderful friend Gail has such a passion for things that come from the sea. Her passion is infectious. She moved to Cape Cod from Connecticut three years ago and is my brother’s love. She had barely put her suitcases on the floor when she said, “Let’s go clamming!” She has two passions in her life besides my brother: One is her art and the other is sea things.

When Gail first tasted this smoked trout spread, she said, “This is delicious. I bet it would be good with smoked blue fish as well.” She promptly went down to Little Pleasant Bay, caught a bluefish and she and Eric, my brother, devised a smoker for their fish. She smoked the blue fish, brought it to me, and we made our lovely spread. I suppose one could use any smoked fish, but so far, we have only tested blue fish and, of course, our delicious trout.