Friday fish fry. That was the thing in my upstate New York hometown, and it didn’t have to be Lent. There were a few places that everyone flocked to on Friday nights for a heaping plate of beer-battered haddock fillets, deep fried and served up with cole slaw and French fries—or cottage cheese, if it was lunch. You couldn’t order it any other day of the week. Just Friday. The “fish fry” is one of the foods I really do miss from my younger years, and I have never seen it served that way anywhere else. There are plenty of places I could find battered-and-fried cod, but it just isn’t the same.
I need to get better at deep frying before I try to make a Friday fish fry myself. Until then, I’ll satisfy my fish craving with a few other favorites, baked rather than fried, that I’ve developed on my own over the years. During the Lenten season, there’s an uptick in searches for interesting seafood recipes because observant Christians abstain from eating meat on Fridays—at least for the 40 days leading up to Easter. Here’s one that is delicious and easy to prepare. I hope you enjoy it, regardless of your religious observance.
My recipe for pecan-crusted trout has evolved over the years, and the flavors and textures are all front and center in this one. The trout fillets are brushed with an easy blend of mayonnaise, Parmesan and Dijon mustard, and then I press them into a mixture of panko crumbs, more grated Parmesan and finely crushed, toasted pecans. 20 minutes later, dinner is served! This is easy enough for even a busy weeknight, and you can prepare your sides while it bakes.
The mayo mixture serves double duty in this recipe. It’s a “glue” to hold the seasoned pecan blend in place, and it also protects the fish from becoming dry during its brief time in the oven. The trout fillets remain soft and moist inside, despite the delicate crunch that meets your taste buds with every bite.
This recipe serves 2; easy to adjust for more servings
2 fresh trout fillets
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup pecan pieces, toasted* (see recipe notes)
1/4 cup panko crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
A few shakes ground cayenne pepper
To toast the pecan pieces, preheat oven to 350° F. Spread the pecan pieces onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until nuts are fragrant, roasty and slightly shiny. Remove from oven and cool completely. Do this step ahead to save even more time in preparation of the fish.
Preheat oven to 350° F. Stir together the mayonnaise, Parmesan and Dijon mustard. Sprinkle the trout fillets with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Using a food processor or mortar and pestle, pulse or crush the pecan pieces into fine crumbs. Transfer the pecans to a bowl with the panko crumbs and Parmesan. Season with a shake or two of ground cayenne.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spritz it lightly with cooking oil spray. Arrange the trout fillets on the sheet, skin side-down. Use a pastry brush to thoroughly coat the fleshy side of the trout fillets with the mayo-Parm mixture, then press the pecan crumb mixture onto the fish, generously covering every visible area.
Bake the fish for about 18 minutes, or until it flakes easily with a light twist of a fork. If the crumbs are pale, turn on the broiler for only one minute, to finish the fish with a deep golden color.