Dozen Best Speckled Trout Dishes
The favorite fish in New Orleans white-tablecloth restaurants for decades, speckled trout lost that reputation about twenty years ago. Not because we liked it any less, but because it became hard to get.
It’s an artificial shortage Laws passed by the Louisiana legislature in the late 1980s limited the commercial catch of speckled trout to less than one percent of the total catch, and imposed a relatively short season–October until the quota had been reached, usually by March. Most of the year, what speckled trout you see in restaurants usually comes from the Carolinas and Virginia, or Mississippi if we’re lucky.
Speckled trout (or “spotted sea trout,” as the ichthyologists call it) is a drum, and not related even distantly to true trout–which are freshwater fish in the salmon family. If you’ve ever had rainbow trout or ruby red trout substituted in a dish created with speckled trout in mind, you see how important this is.
Although some trout is poached and broiled, I’ve always felt that the fish lends itself to cooking in some kind of fat. This gives rise to trout meuniere and amandine, both of which are usually deep-fried, although most restaurants will saute or broil it if you ask.
This is the time of year when Louisiana speckled trout is often available in restaurants. This year I’ve seen a good bit of it already. During the brief time when speckled trout is available, we realize just how terrific a fish it is. And how many great recipes we have for it.Here are what I think are the dozen best versions.
1. Brennan’s. French Quarter: 417 Royal. 504-525-9711. A lot of trout is sold here, and with good reason. Trout Nancy: with crabmeat, capers, and lemon butter. Trout Kottwitz: artichokes, mushrooms, and butter, the original version of that dish. There’s even a breakfast dish: eggs St. Charles, with fried trout under the eggs.
2. Impastato’s. Metairie: 3400 16th St. 504-455-1545. Trout Marianna (artichokes and mushrooms in a sherry butter) and trout Marcello (crabmeat and shrimp) are signature dishes here. They also make a combination of the two under the name of whoever is the current Saints head coach.
2. Sal and Judy’s. Lacombe: 27491 Highway 190. 985-882-9443. As always, more or less the same dishes as at Impastato’s, but with different names.
3. Restaurant August. CBD: 301 Tchoupitoulas. 504-299-9777. Breaded speckled trout Pontchartrain, jumbo lump crab, wild mushrooms and sauce hollandaise. A break from the highly-innovative cooking here to allow for one of the most popular combinations in town.
4. Galatoire’s. French Quarter: 209 Bourbon. 504-525-2021. Trout meuniere or amandine are among the most popular dishes here. And, from out of the past, there’s trout Marguery.
5. Arnaud’s. French Quarter: 813 Bienville. 504-523-5433. Trout meuniere here is a landmark dish, because it marked a complete departure from the French version. Here is where the thick, tan, stock-enriched version was invented. And is still a signature dish.
6. Commander’s Palace. Garden District: 1403 Washington Ave. 504-899-8221. The creator of two original trout dishes still does them definitively: trout with pecans and trout covered with shredded potatoes.
7. Andrea’s. Metairie: 3100 19th St. 504-834-8583. Chef Andrea is assiduous about buying his fish, and when he can get the local trout he does. He’ll cook it any way you want it, but the broiled version with cream pesto sauce is the most unusual.
8. Antoine’s. French Quarter: 713 St Louis. 504-581-4422. Trout florentine is a formerly-common dish around town. Only a few places make it now, and at Antoine’s it’s not on the menu–although they’ll make it if you ask. Creamed spinach underneath, the broiled trout fillet on top, with hollandaise glazed over the top.
9. Fury’s. Metairie: 724 Martin Behrman Ave. 504-834-5646. Trout amandine here is always fresh, always prepared to order, and as good as most. Get it fried, not broiled.
10. Mondo. Lakeview: 900 Harrison Ave. 504-224-2633. Trout here is prepared more or less traditionally, but with one interesting variation called “Muddy Waters” style: a brown meuniere sauce with jalapeno peppers chopped in.
11. Trey Yuen. Mandeville: 600 Causeway Blvd. 985-626-4476. Tong cho trout, cooked in a wok with the restaurant’s signature sauce, slightly sweet, slightly spicy, quite Chinese.
12. Austin’s. Metairie: 5101 West Esplanade Ave . 504-888-5533. Trout with pecans became a big hit in Metairie after Commander’s invented it. Austin’s does an exceptional and very popular version.