Pumpernickel Toasts with Trout, Cucumber and Creme Fraiche
I suppose stranger things have happened than a toddler eating pumpernickel toasts with trout, cucumber and creme fraiche off your appetizer plate before you serve them. I am deducing that it was the cucumber that caught his eye, because he did say “pickle” a couple of times before grabbing one of the toasts with his grubby little hands. But the real shock came when he took the second bite and then reached for another while my husband attempted to hold him back. The kid could not get enough. He was going to be the first AND second to try these toasts!
Now I can’t promise you that your kid will eat these pumpernickel toasts. I am in utter shock mine did. I CAN promise you that your adult guests will give these interesting little bites rave reviews. After gobbling down a few, our friend remarked that the toasts ”were a seasonal winter treat with the promise of spring.” (It was something like that.) I think I understand what he was getting at. The trout marinated in dill, olive oil and lemon, grilled on a cedar plank and served atop a pumpernickel toast dusted with parmesan and garlic powder gives you just a hint of smokiness and a complexity of flavor. It’s hearty and perfect for a winter night. But the topping of creme fraiche, cucumbers and fresh dill is all together refreshing.
I will admit that there is a fair amount of effort that goes into this appetizer. If you like projects, bring this one on! It is a labor intense app, but, in my opinion, completely worth it.
Ultimately, you have to drown the cedar plank in water for a good hour or two so as not to start a massive fire on your grill. You have to marinate the fish. Then you have to grill the trout for 15-20 minutes and let it cool, skinning the fish before cutting into little bite size pieces (by far my least favorite part). Meanwhile, you have to brush the toasts with olive oil and dust them with garlic powder and parmesan and brown them in the oven. And you’ve got to julienne half a cucumber into little tiny pieces and chop the dill. The assembly also takes some time. Having said that, the prep time is a little over-estimated in the recipe below because I am accounting for the time it takes to submerge the plank in water. While you are waiting for your plank to get wet, you can marinate your fish, make your toasts, cut up your cucumber and dill and also play at least one game of Candyland provided someone moves your piece for you every once in a while.
Importantly, these pumpernickel toasts can be made ahead of time and should be served slightly chilled or at room temperature. For that reason, it is a perfect appetizer to bring along to a holiday party because you aren’t hogging coveted oven space. You simply rip off the saran wrap, and you are golden.
One thing I’d like to add. I actually bought some smoked trout at the store this weekend to see a) if the effort of cedar planking the trout was worth it; b) whether it would be a way of shortcutting this recipe. I tried it last night. Still tasty, but much smokier, saltier and a lot less subtle. If you can only commit 30 minutes to making an app, you might want to go that route. But it isn’t the same appetizer. Still yummy, just not AS yummy and really a different appetizer. I think the cedar planking is worth it and makes it a unique appetizer that people haven’t really had before.
One criticism: I had intended to buy those little tiny pumpernickel breads that are so thin they are almost crackers. I couldn’t find them (actually my husband couldn’t find them) so I used pumpernickel bread and cut it up. It was a little too thick. Next time around I will find those thin little toasts.
Finally, this appetizer is part du of my response to my friend Britt who asked for some fun holiday appetizers to serve to her family. I challenge her to see whether she can get one of her kids to eat one!
- 8 oz fresh trout
- 1 cedar plank
- 2 tbsp olive oil (one for marinade and one for brushing)
- ½ lemon, squeezed
- 2 tbsp fresh dill (one for marinade and one for topping)
- 2 tsp garlic powder (one for marinade and one for toasts)
- Ground Pepper and Sea Salt to taste
- 24 mini pumpernickel breads or pumpernickel bread thinly sliced 1 inch square pieces
- 1 tbsp parmesan, finely grated
- 2 tbsp creme fraiche
- ⅓ to ½ cucumber pelled and finely julienned
- Submerge cedar plank in water for one hour (or according to directions on plank).
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Twenty minutes before grilling, marinate the trout in the olive oil, lemon juice, fresh dill and garlic powder, adding fresh ground pepper and sea salt to taste.
- Place trout on the cedar plank and grill for 15-20 minutes until cooked through (Note: cooking time is longer than expected because fish is placed on the plank and not on direct heat. But cooking time can vary depending on your grill.)
- Remove plank from grill with oven mits and let cool. Remove skin from trout and cut into bite size pieces to fit the size of the pumpernickel toasts.
- Meanwhile, brush mini pumpernickel breads with olive oil and dust with finely grated parmesan and garlic powder.
- Place in oven for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned and crispy.
- Assemble the pumpernickel toasts by placing a piece of trout on the toast, dalloping a small double pea sized amount of creme fraiche on top along with julienned cucumbers and fresh dill.