Over Labor Day weekend we headed out for the annual Mueller family camping trip on the Tuolumne River and Turlock Lake in Stanislaus County. This was a banner year with over 30 campers and boaters, ages 2 to 79.
The Tuolumne River in Stanislaus County
A fleet of boats are towed along, one of which is a bass boat, so there’s usually some fishin’ going on. In the past, we haven’t cooked fish that often, the river is catch and release for trout, and nobody has ever been too excited about cleaning and cooking those critters at the end of the day. This year we took things a little more seriously, and I came prepared with my “tool box” for camp cooking.
I visited Green Leaf BBQ, our local specialty BBQ shop ahead of time to look into buying a 16-18” cast iron frying pan, after seeing the behemoth in use on our last camping trip. I left the store without the frying pan (it’s a specialty order) but came out with “The Brothers” Tangy Original BBQ Sauce and “John Henry’s” Wild Cherry Chipotle dry rub, upon recommendation from the owner. I was also packing a salt, pepper and garlic house spice mix that I had picked up at the Lockeford Sausage Company.
The river was flowing fast and furious into the lake and along the campsite, and fishing was good. The Mueller and Miller boys brought in a full stringer of rainbow trout, the assembly line of fish cleaning got rollin’ and the BBQ was sparked. I brought along an arsenal of ideas…
Nephew Matt and the Sangervasi cousins with the “catch of the day”!
I started by sprinkling every fish, inside and out, with the salt and pepper mix, and we tried the trout four ways:
1) I soaked two of the fish in buttermilk that I had brought up for pancakes, then dipped the fish in some flour and spice mix and fried it up on the camp stove the good old fashioned way. It came out crispy and delicious – heads began to turn.
2) We threw one trout directly on the grill, about 5 minutes on one side, flipped it, poured on “The Brothers” sauce inside and out, flipped it again after 5 minutes, brushed the other side with the sauce, cooked a few more minutes and served. At this point we won over another 3 nay-saying fish haters!
3) I laid a pair of fish individually on heavy duty tin foil, rubbed olive oil inside and out and sprinkled with a little more spice mix, stuffed the fish with sliced red bell pepper, garlic and shallots, laid a bit of the veg mix alongside the fish, wrapped them loosely and threw them on the grill, about 10 – 12 minutes each side. Now we were cooking! Another success, and another couple of skeptics were brought to the other side.
4) We rubbed the last fish with olive oil and heavily sprinkled it with John Henry’s Wild Cherry Chipotle dry rub inside and out, threw it on the grill, 5 minutes each side, and boy oh boy, this was the winner in my eyes, it was absolutely delicious! One of the 11 year-olds came over from the darkside at this point, we had the whole team eatin’ fish, and actually enjoying it.
At this point we were wondering if “fish” had another name, maybe kids would be more tolerant, and move beyond the average fish stick! Mission accomplished, my fly-fishin’ dad would be proud!
~ Nancy Calhoun Mueller