Star Prairie Trout Farm: Trout Chowder

Farm raised fish is a sensitive issue. It’s an area that is seen as a great hope for feeding the world as well as having potential for poisoning it. And which farm to buy fish from is often a choice between “bad, ok and better,” perhaps there is a “best” as well, I just don’t know what it is.

I had the chance to visit Star Prairie Trout Farm, a small farm that raises a lot of trout for the twin cities restaurant market. Billed as sustainable, its holding pools are spring fed and the fish food is all natural, but it still seems strange to have thousands of fish in a small space. By comparison to other fisheries the trout do have lots of room to move and the fish is delicious — the cold water keeps their flesh firm, and their flavor is sweet and light.

Following this very easy fishing venture (literally I just stuck a net into the water), I made trout chowder. I had plans for making a salad, but in this weather, I needed something warm.

Trout Chowder:
1 cup diced guanciale (or pancetta)
1 onion, small dice
1 small rainbow trout
1 smoked trout, cut into bite-size pieces
1 lb sunchokes, peeled and diced
2 cups stock (vegetable, chicken, turkey, or fish)
1/4 cup wild rice (hand-harvested)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon minced marjoram
1 tablespoon minced thyme

While preparing other ingredients, cook wild rice in 1 cup of water and a little salt until cooked through. Drain and pour off excess water if necessary.

Put guanciale in pan with water to cover. Let simmer until water dissolves and fat renders out. Cook until guanciale turns brown and crispy. Remove guanciale to a paper towel and reserve for later.

Add butter to the rendered fat from the guanciale. Sautee the onion with a little salt until translucent. Add the diced sunchokes and cook for 5 minutes, then add the herbs and saute for 2 more minutes. Add the stock as well as any fish head or bones you may have and simmer until the sunchokes are cooked through (no more than 10 minutes). Taste the broth and season accordingly.

Place the fresh trout in the hot broth followed by the smoked trout. As the fish cooks it will break apart. Heat the trout until just cooked. Add the cream and bring the liquid to a light simmer.

Serve in a bowl with the crispy guanciale on top and perhaps some crusty multi-grain bread on the side.

After learning to cook at his mother’s bed and breakfast, Daniel Klein (The Perennial Plate) went on to work and train at many of the world’s top restaurants. His culinary education brought him to Spain, France, England, India and New York, where he has worked and trained at top Michelin starred restaurants. After graduating from NYU, Daniel also pursued a career in film. Daniel’s most recent film “What are we doing here?” has aired on TV, in theaters and at numerous festivals around the world.