As a kid who spent a lot of time on the Gulf coast of Alabama, Adam Evans wasn’t a big fan of seafood, even when he was the one who reeled it in. “My uncle has a boat down there, so we fished a lot,” says the Muscle Shoals native, who’s now the executive chef and owner of Automatic Seafood and Oysters in Birmingham. “I wanted to like seafood because my dad ate it a lot, so I kept trying it.” It wasn’t until stints at seafood-heavy restaurants in New Orleans and New York that he fully came around. “That was at a time when everyone was into cooking the whole pig,” he says. “I was more interested in the whole fish, and I just fell in love with seafood.” One of his favorites to catch and eat in the fall is spotted sea trout, a.k.a. speckled trout. Evans loves it grilled with the skin on, particularly when paired with citrus to brighten the flavor (see recipe). But it also holds up well to frying, or simply roasting with a little lemon. “It can even be put in a ceviche if the blood line is cleaned out,” he says. “The flavor is really like no other, with a delicate white meat that flakes big like a redfish yet with enough oil content to give it a slightly more complex taste compared to a snapper or a grouper.” If you’re getting fillets from your local fishmonger, the meat should look translucent and be firm to the touch and dry (water breaks down the flesh). At home, store the fillets in the refrigerator, wrapped in paper towels to protect them from excess moisture, and eat them within a couple of days. But don’t miss out on catching a few if you can. “The first time I caught a sea trout was in the Alabama River with my uncle,” Evans says. “They’re fun to catch because they’re so aggressive for their size. Plus, they have two really interesting fang-like teeth!”
What's in Season
Reeling in Speckled Trout
This silver fish is fall fishing—and eating—at its finest
Chef Adam Evans's Grilled Speckled Trout with Citrus Salad (Yield: 4 servings)
For the citrus salad:
2 Meyer lemons, supremed (instructions follow)
1 grapefruit, supremed
1 orange, supremed
1 lime, supremed
½ cup chives, cut in 1-inch segments
½ cup parsley leaves, sliced
½ cup mint leaves, sliced
½ cup cilantro leaves, sliced
For the trout:
2 tbsp. green curry paste
1 cup raw sugar
1 cup fish sauce
2 cups filtered (or bottled) water
1 cup lime juice
4 (6 oz.) sea trout fillets, scaled with skin on
For the citrus salad: Supreming is a method for removing the membrane from citrus fruit. First, using a sharp knife, slice the peel off each end. Then place citrus upright and slice the peel off in sections from top to bottom, making sure to remove the pith. Place citrus on its side and cut along the inside of each thin membrane in a V shape to release each segment. Repeat with all citrus. Toss segments with herbs and set aside.
For the trout: Simmer the first 4 ingredients in a saucepot for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool, then stir in lime juice. Strain broth and set aside. Meanwhile, heat a grill (preferably charcoal) to high. Rub fillets with olive oil to coat, and season with salt and pepper. Place trout skin-down on grill and cook 3 to 5 minutes, depending on thickness of fillet. Remove from heat and place on a plate skin side up. Pour room-temperature broth over the skin. Top with citrus salad and finish with a drizzle of olive oil. Be sure to set out a spoon to scoop up extra broth.
TIP: A nice hot grill is key to preventing the fish from sticking to the grate.