Both trout and jamón are mainstays of Navarran cooking, Alex Raij notes in her new cookbook, “The Basque Book.” Her take on “trucha a la navarra” — a hit at her restaurant, Txikito — is inspired by her Midwestern upbringing, resulting in this campfire-style trout with the jamón served atop the fish instead of diced in the frying oil.
“The trout has that bacony, crispy skin, just texturally and flavor-wise the ham works very well,” Raij says. If you can’t find whole, head-on trout, you can substitute with two fillets, says the chef, and do one slice of ham per fish.
Campfire trout recipe
2 (1- to 2-pounds) whole butterflied trout (ask your fishmonger to do this)
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for searing
4 slices jamón ibérico
6 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 dried guindilla pepper or árbol chile
3 tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 to 2 tbsp. Garnacha wine vinegar, sherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Season the trout inside and out with salt and coat the skin side with oil. Heat a cast-iron frying pan or other ovenproof frying pan over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan lightly, and when the oil begins to smoke, add one trout, skin side down and splayed open. Cook, shaking the pan back and forth constantly, for about 1 minute, until you know the skin is free and won’t stick.
2. Working quickly, lay a slice of jamón on each fillet of the trout, then cook for 1 more minute. Slide the fish onto a large baking sheet and repeat the previous steps in the frying pan with the second fish and the remaining jamón. Bake the trout for 4 to 6 minutes, until the flesh is firm but still pink when you peek under the jamón (cooked medium).
3. While the trout are baking, combine the 2⁄3 cup oil and garlic in a small saucepan and warm over medium-high heat for 35 to 40 seconds, until the garlic is barely golden. Remove from the heat and add the pepper, parsley and a pinch of salt.
4. Serve the trout family-style, adding a splash of vinegar to each fish and spooning the garlic oil over the top.