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Roasted Trout With Dill And Lemon

Roasted trout scented with lemons and dill gets high marks for luscious flavor and easy preparation. That's how Chef Frank Stitt prepares it at his Bottega Restaurant & Cafe in Birmingham, Ala. He shares the recipe in his new cookbook, Frank Stitt's Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef's Love Affair With Italian Food (Artisan 2008).The recipe calls for creme fraiche, in which Stitt often grates horseradish for a little kick. He sometimes dresses up the salad with crumbled feta or shaved fennel, and tucks feathery fennel sprigs in the trout before roasting. Watercress fans will want to double the amount of the salad ingredients, including the radishes, walnuts and sherry vinaigrette. Stitt recommends serving the fish with little new potatoes, boiled and tossed with olive oil or butter, or polenta or grits.

Makes 4 servings

4 whole boneless rainbow trout, cleaned and, if desired, head removed

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 bunch fresh dill

2 whole lemons, thinly sliced

1 scant tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups watercress leaves

4 radishes, thinly sliced

1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons sherry vinaigrette (see recipe below)

1/4 cup creme fraiche

Position a rack in upper third of oven; preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Season cavity of each trout assertively with sea salt and pepper. Stuff each with 2 to 4 dill sprigs and several lemon slices. Set aside.

Melt butter with olive oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. When butter foams, add trout, place pan in the oven and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Rotate the pan for even cooking; continue roasting until skin on top puckers or turns crispy golden brown, another 4 to 5 minutes. The flesh should just be opaque throughout. Be careful not to overcook.

While the fish roasts, toss the watercress, radishes and walnuts with the sherry vinaigrette. Divide this salad among four dinner plates, mounding to one side on each. Place a trout on each plate and spoon a dollop of creme fraiche next to each. Serve immediately.

Sherry Vinaigrette

1/2 shallot, finely minced

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Combine the shallot, sherry vinegar and a good pinch each of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes. Whisk in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Taste and adjust the seasonings. The vinaigrette will keep for several days in a jar in the refrigerator.

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