Cooking from the Bar Cart: Herbsaint Trout Packets

Liqueur-infused compound butter elevates this winning take on foil-pack fish


Every year I pack up my car for the eighteen-hour drive from my Alabama home to my family cabin in the New Mexico Rockies. I always include an ice chest with dry ice to transport the many ingredients I’ve prepared, frozen, and vacuum-packed, from coffee-rubbed hanger steaks and maple-brined pork chops to garden pesto, countless sauces, and blended bases for cocktails. This makes it easy to feed the legions of friends and family who visit and helps me avoid multiple trips down the mountain to a small grocery store that stocks only the bare basics.

photo: Bourke Harvey

One thing I can count on procuring when I arrive is lots of fresh trout plucked from the icy Cimarron River just outside the cabin door. Whether I’m cooking the fish in a cast-iron skillet on the stovetop, or in foil packets on the grill or over the campfire, having logs of prepared compound butter is my secret weapon for delicious trout dinners. Not only does the infused butter baste the fish as it cooks, it also creates a rich sauce to pour over everything once the meal is plated. Herbs and aromatics are the typical additions, but a splash of liqueur adds a dose of sublime flavor to this rustic foil-pack recipe. As the butter melts during cooking, the liquid becomes steam, and the distilled flavors in the liqueur permeate the delicate flesh of the fish. Anise-flavored liqueurs like Pernod, pastis, and absinthe are classics with fish and shellfish, and I find that the sweet herbal notes of New Orleans–produced Herbsaint paired with fresh mountain trout is a particularly holy union.


See other recipes in our Cooking from the Bar Cart series.


  • Herbsaint Trout Packets (Yield: 4 servings)

    • 1 small fennel bulb with fronds

    • 2 lemons

    • 1 stick salted butter, softened

    • 1 small shallot, peeled and minced

    • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced

    • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

    • 1½ tbsp. Herbsaint or other anise-flavored liqueur

    • 4 whole rainbow or brown trout, cleaned

    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Remove any stalks and fronds from the fennel bulb. Thinly slice the bulb and set aside. Chop the fronds to yield 1 tablespoon and transfer to a small bowl. Cut 1 lemon into thin slices and set aside. Finely zest the remaining lemon and place the zest in the bowl with the fennel fronds. Cut the zested lemon into wedges and set aside.

  2. Add the butter, shallot, garlic, parsley, and liqueur to the bowl with the fennel fronds and zest, and mash with the tines of a fork to thoroughly combine. Transfer the compound butter to the center of a rectangle of parchment paper. Bring up the sides of the paper and form the butter into a log. Twist the ends to secure, and chill the butter in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until firm.

  3. Preheat an outdoor grill to 450°F. Tear 4 sheets of aluminum foil into rectangles that are 6 inches longer than each trout. Season each trout inside and out with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity of each fish with the sliced fennel bulb and lemon slices. Slice the chilled compound butter into 8 equal slices. Tuck 2 slices of butter into the cavity of each fish. Transfer a prepared fish to the center of a sheet of aluminum foil, bring the long sides together, and fold over several times to crimp tightly. Crimp and fold in the short sides similarly to secure. Repeat with the remaining fish.

  4. Transfer the packets to the preheated grill and cook for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the packets from the grill, carefully open them, and transfer the fish to serving plates. Pour the melted butter and juices from packets over fish. Serve with the lemon wedges.

Katherine Cobbs is a cookbook author and editor. Her recent books are Pantry Cocktails (2021), Tequila & Tacos (2020), and Cookies & Cocktails (2019) published by Simon & Schuster. She also developed recipes for Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook – Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories.