Phil Werst knows a lot about sustainable cuisine. As the general manager of Minneapolis’ Common Roots Café, Werst is charged with designing made-from-scratch menus that make flavorful use of local bounty and organic ingredients. Several times a week, you can find the eco-minded chef cycling back from the farmers market, his bike trailer loaded down with the season’s goodies.
We told Werst about our Sustainable Seafood special project—an online repository of recipes, news, and resources inspired by our recent excerpt of Bottomfeeder: How to eat ethically in a world of vanishing seafood—and the chef agreed to dream up something delicious for Utne.com’s readers. This past Saturday, he showed Utne librarian Danielle Maestretti and me how to prepare Baked Trout with Roasted Root Vegetable Farro Risotto and Butternut Squash Puree.
A word of warning: I nearly died of happiness when I shoveled the first bite of Werst’s dish into my mouth. The roasted root vegetables heartily stood up against the dense, nutty warmth of the farro risotto, and the butternut squash puree, a food too often prepared overly sweet, was refreshingly spiked with apple cider vinegar and a hint of cayenne. And the fish, well. Fresh from Star Prairie Trout Farm, the trout wasn’t just amazingly tasty—it was surprisingly easy to prepare. (If you’ve never removed pinbones before, Werst demonstrates the technique in a video below.)
Baked Trout with Roasted Root Vegetable Farro Risotto and Butternut Squash Puree
Trout and Farro Risotto: 4 medium carrots; 2 bulbs celery root; 4 medium parsnips; 3 tablespoons olive oil (plus some for drizzling); 1 medium yellow onion, diced; 2 cloves of garlic, chopped; ½ teaspoon chili flakes; ½ teaspoon fennel seed; 2 cups organic farro, dry; 1 cup mild white wine; 1 quart vegetable stock; 3 cups arugula; 1 tablespoon unsalted butter; 3 whole trout; Salt and pepper
Butternut Squash Puree: 1 medium butternut squash; 1 cup vegetable stock (plus some for thinning); ¼ cup apple cider vinegar; Pinch cayenne; 2 tablespoons maple syrup; Salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
The butternut squash will take the most time in the oven, so begin by chopping the squash in half and laying it face down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put the squash in the oven. You’ll roast it until a knife inserted offers little resistance, 45 minutes to an hour.
Peel the carrots, parsnips, and celery root bulbs. Slice the parsnips in half lengthwise, and then again; remove the woody core. Chop all the vegetables into quarter-inch cubes. Toss them with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and some fresh-cracked pepper. Transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and put them in the oven. They’ll roast for 15-20 minutes, but keep an eye on them. The cubes should be tender but not crispy.
While your vegetables are roasting, bring the vegetable stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan. As the stock warms, place a large pot over medium heat—this is where you will cook the risotto. When the large pot is hot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onions and garlic, stirring until translucent. Add the chili flakes, fennel seed, one tablespoon salt, and farro. Stir for two minutes and then add the white wine. Stir until the wine is almost completely dissolved. Ladle in warm vegetable stock 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently. Remove from heat when the grain is cooked but still slightly chewy. Stir in the unsalted butter and set to the side.
Provided they’re done cooking, pull the squash and the roasted root vegetables out of the oven and set aside to cool—it’s time to prepare your trout. You can purchase trout fillets with the pinbones already removed, but it’s really quite easy to prepare your own. Werst demonstrates the technique:
Place the trout fillets skin-side-down on a parchment lined baking tray. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and season lightly with salt and fresh-cracked pepper. Depending on the idiosyncrasies of your oven, the fillets will take 8 to 12 minutes to bake. When they are done, the flesh will be opaque pink and firm to the touch. Bake until cooked through and remove from the oven.
While the trout is in the oven, remove the seeds from the cooled squash. Scoop out the squash meat and put it in a food processor. Add 1 cup of vegetable stock and apple cider vinegar. Puree for 30 seconds. Add cayenne and maple syrup. Puree again. The squash should be silky smooth and slide easily off of a spoon; add additional stock as needed. Salt to taste.
Stir the roasted vegetables, arugula, and ½ cup butternut squash puree into the farro risotto. Salt and pepper to taste.
In large pasta bowls, place one cup farro risotto in the center, and gently transfer a trout filet on top of the grain. Drizzle generously with butternut squash puree. Note: Excess puree, thinned with additional stock, will make a delicious soup.