Written by Tom Brooks, Director of Food & Beverage at The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa

Before I begin, please allow me to make a small correction to the Cheese Fondue recipe from last week. I mistakenly called for one CAN of beer. I meant to say, “one CUP of beer.” So if you make the fondue, please only use one cup of beer, and you can just drink the rest yourself. My apologies.

Now—on to this week’s recipe. As many of you know, I recently moved here from Boston. While I’ve been enjoying all that this area has to offer, the Fourth of July found me missing some of my old friends and our Beantown traditions. No, I wasn’t ever crazy enough to fight the throngs along the Charles to be in the middle of the celebration, but we could always hear the Pops and the fireworks. And we always had a great time.

This year, as I taught a (delicious!) afternoon World BBQ class here at The Essex, I was still without plans for the evening. As it turns out, two of the class participants were a great couple from a neighborhood just outside Boston, and they invited me to attend the VSO’s Summer Festival Tour with them at Shelburne Farms that night.

I only had time to quickly walk through the kitchens and grab a handful of items I could turn into a picnic dinner, but I think I pulled it off pretty well. Smoked trout, an assortment of local cheeses, a loaf of focaccia, and some fresh fruit. I don’t know about you, but that screams “eating outside on the Fourth of July” to me. For those of you who have never perfected the art of using a smoker with your food, I thought I’d offer a how-to. Enjoy!

In the end, the meal came together really well, and the evening was amazing. The symphony played a beautiful mix of lilting harmonies, the sunset was magnificent, and the fireworks were a perfect ending to my first Vermont Fourth of July. I could really get used to this.

Smoke Your Own Trout
3 trout fillets
¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
½ tsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 cups hickory wood chips
1 tbsp. salad oil

Rinse trout and pat dry. In a small bowl, mix sugar, salt, lemon peel, and thyme. Rub evenly over the fish. Stack fish in a 9 x 13 baking dish, cover, and chill 1-3 hours. Meanwhile, soak wood chips in a bowl with 2 quarts of water for 30 minutes. If you have a charcoal grill, ignite about 60 charcoal briquettes. After 20-25 minutes, sprinkle in the wood chips, and make sure the cooking surface is about 6” above the chips. Leave the vents open on the grill cover, so the fire gets air. Gas-grill users, lay the wood chips in an aluminum foil “pan” on either side of the flame, and let it heat for 10 minutes. Coat the sides of the fish with oil, and lay the fillets skin-side-down on the grill. Close the grill cover, and cook until the fish is opaque and still moist-looking in the middle (approximately 8-10 minutes). Let the fish cool or serve when hot. Your choice.

Suggested cheeses:
Jasper Hill Farm Moses Sleeper
Boucher Family Farm Green Mountain Blue
Von Trapp Farmstead Oma
Blue Ledge Farm Chevre

Other essentials:
Loaf of fresh foccacia
Home-made cornbread muffins
Apples, grapes
Hard Salami