Trout are a species of freshwater fish distributed naturally throughout North America, northern Asia and Europe.  They usually are found in cool, clear lakes and streams, although some varieties, like rainbow trout, are anadromous and may spend two or three years at sea before returning to the fresh stream of their birth to spawn (an ocean loving trout is called a steelhead because of the silvery color it develops at sea). If that homing habit reminds you of salmon, you’re right;  they’re closely related.

Because they provide camouflage, the colors and patterns of trout vary widely based on the environments in which they live.  Coloration may change as trout migrate to new habitats, or reach new stages in their life cycle.  Trout that are about to breed are intensely colored and wild trout have more vivid colors and patterns than farmed varieties.  Similarly, the taste of trout is influenced by diet;  trout that feed on crustaceans are considered more flavorful than those that mainly eat insects.

Trout populations are healthy worldwide and have no special status or protections. However, since they put up a good fight when caught by anglers, they are prized by sports fishermen and have been introduced into parts of the world where they have endangered native species and are now considered invasive pests.  Several species of trout were introduced to Australia and New Zealand by amateur fishing enthusiasts in the 19th century, for example, and they displaced or endangered several native fish species.

The health benefits of trout are notable; they have very high levels of omega fatty acids are low in fat and high in protein.  When you purchase them at your fish market, make sure that they have:

o    A  clean smell – if a trout smells fishy it isn’t fresh.

o Shiny skin and pink gills – if the gills aren’t pink and the fish doesn’t appear fresh and lively, it probably isn’t.

o Clear eyes – if they’re cloudy, all bets are off.

The rest really couldn’t be simpler. Ask your fish monger to clean the trout and remove the bones, leaving the fish, including head and tail, intact. Rinse the trout under cold tap water inside and out, pat it dry with paper towels, dust it with flour or cornmeal (if you’re so inclined), and saute it in oil and/or butter for a total of 10 minutes, turning once halfway.  If your trout are small, buy one for each person.  Two people with average appetites can share a medium to large-sized trout.

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