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Montavilla market catch: Steelhead trout

Creamy risotto laced with smoked Steelhead and fresh vegetables
Creamy risotto laced with smoked Steelhead and fresh vegetablesMissy A Kitchell

Last weekend a trip to the Montavilla Farmer’s Market yielded more than its fair share of just-picked veggies. Low and behold, there was a vendor selling fresh-caught-from-the-Columbia River Sockeye, Rainbow trout and luscious, I want to be a salmon, but I’m a trout, Steelhead. Who could pass that up? The price was right, so a slippery four pound beauty was placed in a paper bag (much easier to hold that way) and then promptly plopped into plastic to keep drips and fishy odors from filling the car.

Steelhead lead double lives. A member of the trout family, but living like a salmon, they have their beginnings in freshwater. Steelhead migrate to a marine setting and then make the pilgrimage back to the fresh environs to spawn and mate.

Steelhead have been called the ultimate game fish. These elusive and challenging fish can test an angler’s patience and persistence, but the reward is hooking into a fish that is famous worldwide for its line-peeling runs and spectacular, acrobatic fight. – Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

The sport of trying to lure one of these swimming creatures makes a fine fish tale, but bottom line, is it yummy? Steelhead have a texture and taste similar to salmon. The pink-flesh is slightly sweeter, more delicate and distinctly buttery. On the nutrition side, it wallops a big punch of vitamins D and B, omega 3’s, tons of protein and iron. Added plus: It’s on the Monterey Aquarium Bay Seafood Watch as a “best choice.”

Are you reeled in? Steelhead is a fabulous substitute for any recipe calling for salmon, and it’s more budget-friendly. Our catch found its way onto a smoke-infused grill for about two and a half hours. It was stuffed and slathered with garlic, dill, limes, Dijon and brown sugar. It was placed on a foil-lined baking sheet and left open to impart the full smoky goodness. The result was a moist, succulent meal with layers of flavor. Some of the left-over meat was tucked into a creamy risotto, while the remainder found a temporary home in the freezer for future use.

Smoked Steelhead Risotto with Fresh Corn and Tomatoes
Makes 4 generous servings

Your will need:

  • 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion or shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup dry white wine (I like Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 ½ cup smoked Steelhead, flaked in large chunks
  • 1 ear fresh corn, shucked and kernels removed
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup each green onion tops and fresh dill, chopped
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Salt and pepper to taste

What you will do:

  • Warm the stock to barely a simmer.
  • Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a heavy 4 quart pan. Add onion or shallots and garlic to pan. Sauté for about a minute.
  • Tip in the rice and mix to coat with oil and onion mixture, stirring for another minute or two. The rice should look transparent.
  • Add the wine and stir until it is almost absorbed.
  • Begin adding stock ½ cup at a time, allowing the rice to soak it up before the next addition. Continue until the stock is gone and rice is al dente.
  • Carefully mix in the chunks of Steelhead, corn, tomatoes, cheese and herbs. Taste for salt and pepper.