Smoked Trout Pâté
A Fish Tale: “Listen to the sound of the river and you will get a trout.” -Proverb
When people ask us where we live, we tell them, “In the western North Carolina mountains, near Linville, on the edge of the Pisgah National Forest.” If that doesn’t strike a bell, then we mention Grandfather Mountain. If that still doesn’t work, we fall back to Blowing Rock. Everyone knows where Blowing Rock is (and if they don’t they so should), at least in a general directional sense. It’s about 30 miles away but much easier to get a geographical nod than saying we live in Foggy Ridge, North Carolina. Not exactly the hot metropolis on everyone’s 100 places to see in a lifetime. It’s incredibly beautiful and rustic and I love the fact that the property has been in my husband’s family since 1960. The downside is that it’s about 25 minutes away from a decent grocery store. That means if you forgot something at the market, it’ll have to wait for the next time. We have no mail service (P.O. Box/General Delivery only), but we do get a personal phone call from our delightful postmistress when our Fruit-of-the-Month selection arrives.
Since there’s no waste management for curb-side pick up, we have to haul our trash to the dump, about a mile away. But the dump’s closed on Wednesdays, Sundays and major holidays, so trash disposal is a top priority. You don’t want to leave your trash outside your door unless you enjoy picking up trash that’s been further trashed by raccoons and bears. Sounds romantic and cute until you have to clean it all up the next morning, which I have done numerous times, cursing the furry critters (and myself) under my breath.
We gave up familiar conveniences when we moved from Nashville a few years back. Having a Williams-Sonoma within short driving distance is but a faint memory. And, now, whenever we pass a Target or World Market on the road, my nose is pressed to the window, hands on the glass, pleading Adam to stop, promising I’ll only be a minute. That rarely works unless he needs something, too. Even then, it’s get in and get out. Men don’t understand the concept of “just looking.” But that’s another conversation for another day.
The loss of close retail therapy is a small sacrifice compared to what we have now: a fairy tale cottage that sits atop a bluff, overlooking a gorgeous waterfall, nestled in 30 acres of rhododendron paradise. I love that my husband spent his summers here as a boy, camping at the Big Rock and playing “Capture the Flag” with his brother and sister in the orchard. I imagine that 10 or 11-year-old little boy jumping into the pond on a hot August day, splashing around, not caring that the water is still freezing. It is a most magical place.
And, it’s officially trout season. Fishermen come from all over, walking alongside the highway that parallels the river in search of the perfect spot, all decked out in their khaki vests and water gear. It’s quite something to see. Personally, I’d like to have one of those vests. They look incredibly useful to stash stuff in all those little pockets.
I don’t like to fish, though. Never did, really. And honestly, I am not a big fan of the fin. Shellfish is another story, but if you’ve been following us for a spell, there’s no surprise there. I do, however, like the idea of fly-fishing. I imagine there is an immense calming feeling to the rhythm of the cast, waist deep in water (or maybe that’s my Robert Redford A River Runs Through It crush talking). Adam tells me of how the course of the river has changed over the years and reminisces about how his dad would stock the streams with rainbow trout and of the time they spent fishing together. Although to hear him tell it, he spent more time removing fish hooks from his fingers than actually catching anything. Fish hooks notwithstanding, Adam insists he caught some whoppers and, because I love him, I’ll assume he’s not telling me one. I do know there’s at least one big fish down there. Sunny days, around 12: 30, if the light’s just right, you can spot a big fat trout that I imagine has been here forever, happily swimming in the deep pool under the main bridge. He’s spectacular and I’ve named him Norman. (Okay, maybe I’ve seen On Golden Pond one too many times). But he is one giant trout and I adore the way his colors and freckles sparkle in the water. Sometimes we’ll sit on the lower terrace and have cocktails by the creek, watching the fish jump in the early evening light as we nosh on smoked salmon toast points, feeling incredibly lucky that we live in such a beautiful place.
Then one day it hit me. With all this native trout around, I should make smoked trout pâté! Don’t ask me why, but I guess being surrounded by all the local inhabitants made me think it’s been on many a fine dining menu for a reason. So, that was that. I was going to make my very own pâté.
I got out my fishing rod, dusted it off, and then…. had you going, didn’t I? I got in my car and drove the 25 minutes to my somewhat gourmet market and purchased a package of smoked trout. Let the great experiment begin!
For the pâté, I wanted a balance of smokiness from the fish, creaminess for spreadability, a little lemon juice for brightness, and capers for that briny kick. I’d serve it with really good bread, thinly sliced, drizzled with olive oil and toasted golden brown. Pleased with the results, I spooned it into an antique silver shell-shaped bowl, (a lovely gift from my mother-in-law), garnished it with some dill and capers and served it on a silver tray with glasses of good wine by the creek. It was perfect. Adam doesn’t do fishy-fishy things often, but he does love this dip. I think you will, too.
And as for my speckled friends, now I understand what all the fuss is about. But don’t worry, Norman. I am happy to make the trek to the store the next time the urge for smoked trout pâté bites.
- • one 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
- • ¼ cup sour cream
- • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- • dash of Worcestershire sauce
- • 5 ounces smoked trout, finely minced
- • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
- • 3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
- • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
- • ⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- • ½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, (or using a hand held electric mixer), beat the cream cheese, sour cream, lemon juice and Worcestershire until smooth. Fold in the trout, dill, scallions, capers, cayenne pepper and Old Bay seasoning. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Garnish with fresh dill and capers.
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