Friday, July 9, 2010

Branson, Missouri, Part Two

While the southern midwest does often tend towards chain restaurants and processed/pre-packaged foods, even in the Ozarks, there are some favorite local dishes and ingredients that we enjoyed on our visit that are noteworthy.  Freshly caught, local trout, local catfish, and barbeque in it's many forms can be enjoyed and savored here.  Sorghum, a molasses-type, mineral-rich syrup is a popular local ingredient that reminds me of my childhood is popular in the Ozarks and is found in all the stores and even at the Wal-Mart in Branson.  I have never seen it anywhere else, so I definitely bought a large tin.  Stay tuned for a posting that features what I come up with for that! 

There were two meals that made an impression on me during our stay.  Funny, I ended up getting the trout at both places--I guess that's how the cookie crumbles when you don't eat meat and try to eat local in the Ozarks.  Thankfully, both meals were delicious.

Hold on to your seat when I say this...The first of the two trout dinners was at Andy Williams Moon River Grill found next to the Moon River Theater on the main drag in Branson.  We had tickets to see Paul Revere and the Raiders opening with The Comets (the surviving ones at least) and decided to eat at the adjacent restaurant beforehand (reservations at 5--early bird country!).  The Comets were adorable, still played great music, and impressed us with their 76 year old lead singer, and 86 year old drummer.  Paul Revere and the Raiders?  There was more slapstick humor and really corny jokes than there was music and the show was geared for the 70+ set.  Well, at least it ended early...Dinner before was good, though.  The salads were fresh, the drinks were decent, and my Pecan-encrusted Trout served with Maple Sherry Butter Sauce was outrageous.  A simple crust and pan-searing turned an otherwise bland, woodsy fish into a gourmet, but still un-pretentious treat.  Hearty and flavorful, the trout is something I would order if I ever found myself here again.  We also stuck around near the booth where Andy sits, in the hopes that we might see him but no such luck.  We had to leave for the show before he came in.

The next memorable trout was served to me at Devil's Pool Restaurant at Big Cedar Resort.  This place was a lesson in local ambiance.  It was a taxidermists dream with stuffed 'possum, birds, mooseheads, deerheads, maybe a mongoose or an armadillo here or there, all perched amidst the log beams, fireplace, and long plank tables.  The stuffed carcasses were not my favorite part, but at least none were looking at me while I ate.  The trout, on the other hand, was maybe a rainbow trout.  It's flesh was a bit pinker in color than the previous night's, but also very fresh.  The preparation was simple.  Pan-seared and finished in Lemon-Thyme Butter and accompanied by a shaved asparagus and snap pea salad, which was just as delightful as the trout--thinly shaved and barely sauteed, though I suspect use of margarine here...I guess they haven't heard....It was another winning trout meal.

If you can find fresh trout fillets without bone or skin, I would highly recommend giving it a try.  There is fresh, local trout in many regions of the country so there is most likely some near you if you look for it.  Even better, though, is if you have a fisherman in your midst who can just catch you some.  I am blessed with an in-house fisherman and next catch you can be sure I will pull out my boning knife and cook up some...

Pecan-Encrusted Trout with Sherry Butter Sauce

2 lb fresh trout fillet (boned, skinned, and sliced into 4-6 serving size pieces)
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups pecans
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sugar (or sucanat)

5 T unsalted butter
2 t maple syrup (use the real stuff, if you don't have any, then substitute honey!!)
2 t sherry
1/2 t sea salt
quick shirt of freshly squeezed lemon juice
coarsely ground black pepper to taste

4-6 T extra-virgin olive oil or olive oil/butter combo for pan-frying

Rinse fillets in cold water and place in a shallow bowl with milk.  Let sit while you prepare the crust and butter sauce.

In a food processor, combine pecans, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and sugar or sucanat. Pulse in food processor until mixture in uniform and fine, about 20-30 pulses.  You may need to scrape the sides down once or twice to get it all blended. Transfer the mixture to a large plate or bowl.  Set aside.

Melt butter over medium-low heat in a saucepan.  Whisk in maple syrup and sherry.  Cook 5-7 minutes, lowering heat if it goes above a gentle simmer.  Finish with salt, lemon juice, and coarse black pepper. Turn heat to the lowest setting to keep warm.

Return to the fillets and drain the milk; discard.  Pan fillets dry and roll in pecan crust mixture.  If it is having trouble sticking, you can add some bread crumbs or just press the mixture firmly into the fillet.  Coat them thickly!
In a large frying pan, melt oil/butter for frying and bring it the medium heat.  Cook the fillets about 4 minutes on each side.  Don't move them around (except for flipping) once they are in the pan or the crust will fall off.

Drain for a minute on paper towels, if necessary.  Transfer to a serving plate and drizzle butter sauce over the top. 


Deborah said...

I LOVE trout AND Andy Williams! Branson here I come!

Catherine Barker Hoffman said...

That's great! I guess we can still be friends. I know that Branson isn't an easy sale, but I guess there's something for everyone in Branson (even a New Yorker)! ; )