Dinner in 30 minutes: Whole Grilled Trout, Steamed Green Beans, Brown Butter Orzo “Risotto”

trout meat

All I want when I’m old and gray is to live steps from a bakery like Tartine, a short drive from some good ethnic food, and a bike ride, perhaps, from a good fish market. Presently, I’m striking out on all three fronts.

A nice fish market, in particular, would be a most welcome addition to my current neighborhood. Discovering this past summer that places like Dockside actually exist, made me want to pack up and skip town permanently. It’s just that when fish is that fresh — literally caught off the dock — it needs so little attention to get from the fridge to the dinner table. And when fish that fresh is grilled whole, and the skin crisps, and the meat flakes off the tiny delicate skeleton, tasting not a bit dry or fishy just fresh and delicious, never am I happier.

A recent discovery — that Wegman’s sells whole rainbow trout — will likely keep me put for the time being. Farmed rainbow trout, because it is raised in an ecologically responsible way, makes it a Seafood Watch “best choice”. What’s more, whole rainbow trout is affordable. At $6.49/lb, two whole trout, which will feed three comfortably, cost $11.49. Fresh, sustainable, affordable, delectable? I know, incredible.

Grilling fish whole is a new thing for me, and if you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend it, especially if who have anxiety about cooking fish — I certainly do. You’ll have to, of course, get over the presence of beady eyes and a mouth lined with mini razor sharp teeth, and you should try hard to do so because grilling fish whole is incredibly forgiving — the skin protects it from drying out even in the thinnest spots.

This meal has become a recent favorite. Greens beans, needing nothing more than a three-minute steam and a drizzling of olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon, salt and pepper, are so good right now, but feel free to replace them with your favorite steamable vegetable. And this brown butter orzo “risotto,” a Sally Schneider recipe, is a long-time favorite. It cooks in just 11 minutes and tastes amazingly creamy despite there being no cream or cheese at all — just brown butter and water. So easy, so delicious.

A couple final thoughts: There is a Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app for both Android and iPhone, which I find incredibly useful. And, for those of you who like to kill time dreaming about food/cooking, check out this list of 150 classic recipes on Saveur. I want to make everything.

Whole grilled trout with green beans and orzo

This orzo “risotto” starts with brown butter:
brown butter for the orzo risotto

Orzo then gets toasted in the brown butter:
orzo, toasting in skillet

The orzo then simmers in water for 11 minutes until it becomes creamy and risotto-like:
brown butter orzo risotto

Green beans steam for about 3 minutes:
green beans

whole trout

Whole trout grill for about 3.5 to 4 minutes a side:
trout, grilling

grilled trout

removing the bone

trout meat

trout meat

Whole Grilled Trout

One trout can feed two people if the eaters are light eaters. One would never fly in my home, so use your judgement.

whole trout, however many you want (mine on average are about 14 oz. each)
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
lemon slices
olive oil

lemon wedges for serving

1. Preheat the grill to high. Season trout all over with salt and pepper. Stuff cavity with lemon slices. Rub olive oil all over fish (alternatively, rub oil over your grill grates.)

2. Grill for 3.5 to 4 minutes a side. Serve with lemon wedges and some good sea salt.

Brown Butter Orzo Risotto
Source: Sally Schneider’s A New Way to Cook
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 oz (1 1/3 cups) orzo
3 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large skillet or a medium heavy saucepan, cook the butter over moderately low heat until the solids sink that sink to the bottom are golden brown and the butter smells like roasting nuts. Add the orzo, increase the heat to moderate, and sauté, stirring constantly, until the orzo is golden and about one third of the grains are dark brown. Stir in the water and salt and bring to a boil.

2. Cook at a low boil until the orzo is tender and most of the water has evaporated, about 11 minutes. There should be a light creamy “sauce” binding the orzo and making it slightly soupy. Add pepper to taste and serve at once.

Steamed Green Beans
Serves: However many you like

green beans
kosher salt
freshly cracked pepper
olive oil
fresh squeezed lemon juice

1. Fill a medium heavy saucepan or pot with about an inch of water. Insert steamer basket. Bring to a boil. Add beans. Steam for 2 to 3 minutes or until desired crunch has been achieved. Remove beans and place in a serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon to taste.

trout skeleton


  1. says

    Dear Alexandra,
    I call your blog – Adventures in Eating – You have brought such pleasure to our table. Thank you, Thank you.

  2. Liz says

    Wow, Alexandra, that last photo was like an homage to Georgia O’Keefe! Fantastic post–makes saying good-bye to summer all the easier.

  3. says

    This is very much my kind of meal and yes, I would love to live near fresh caught fish which would mean a move from Nashville. At least a good bakery would be nice. We don’t have that either.

  4. jeri says

    Sadly, not every neighborhood has a great fish market; and when there is they are usually so expensive. But if you have an Asian market nearby, it’s absolutely the place to get the freshest and most affordable fish.

  5. says

    This looks pretty much perfect — I needed a shove to break my habit of the snack-plate dinner. Think this will do it. Brown butter for the orzo is a genius step. All I want to add is a wedge salad with some asteroid-sized clumps of blue cheese so that there’s something to crunch down on–maybe while the fish is grilling.

    Always enjoy your blog. So down to earth but full of vision.

  6. says

    oh my goodness, Zach is going to go batty for this meal. He DREAMS of living on a fishing boat (we’ve talked about this right?) and would eat fish every night if I was up for it. And whole fish on the grill, well that just about sums up to the two things he loves most in this world. I guess I’ll have to do the flipping so it can be the 3 things he loves most 😉 Great idea Ali, cannot wait to try this on Friday when I can get fish at the farmers market. YUM! ps…looking forward to some pics of your kiddies in their Halloween costumes, although I’m not sure anything can beat last years skeleton!

  7. Wrenn says

    I tried the brown butter orzo and WOW, what a clever method! I added my own minor twists on it seasoning-wise. We absolutely loved it. It’s so easy and so good! This’ll be in my regular rotation now.

    • says

      Wrenn — I’m so happy to hear this! I don’t think many Readers tried this one, and it is truly one of my favorites. It tastes so creamy and delicious and cooks in no time. I think it’s magic. Definitely a good one to add your own favors twists in. Thanks for writing in!

  8. Ava says

    I made the orzo and paired it with shrimp and spinach, it was wonderful and I will be making the orzo again…Thank You!

    • says

      Ava — that sounds delicious! Love the sound of this combination. So glad you like this orzo. Doesn’t it taste incredibly creamy and risotto like for cooking in only 12 minutes?

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