Appetite For Instruction: Blackened Trout With Linguine

Recipe Demonstrated by Chef Peter Gray of Cretia's on McKinney

Cretia's on McKinney, the bistro-slash-bakery-slash-live music venue, reopened in March after a nine-month hiatus to, um, refresh and regroup. In addition to moving just up the road to the former Tijuana Bar and Grill location, a brand new Executive Chef is also shaking things up in the kitchen.

Peter Gray bounced around from California to Indiana (and several places in between) before settling in Dallas a few years back. A native New Yorker and CIA grad--that's Culinary Institute of America, not the other CIA--he cites cultures as varied as the American Southwest, Japan and the South Pacific among his inspirations.

His Blackened Trout, however, is pure Big Easy. It's ideally suited to Cretia's sumptuous décor, trés New Orleans in dark woods, velvet and brocade. But this dish could also bring a bit of the Creole spirit to your own dinner table any night of the week.

Step 1: Chef Gray's (No longer a) Secret Blackening Spice Combine the following: 1 cup chili powder ½ cup Hungarian paprika ¼ cup white pepper ¼ cup black pepper ¼ cup cayenne pepper ½ cup cumin ¼ cup dried thyme ½ cup dried oregano ½ cup dried basil 1/8 cup allspice 1 ½ cups kosher salt (Any remaining blackening spice will keep for a few months in an airtight container.)

Step 2: Heat ½ ounce each butter and olive oil in a skillet over high heat. Dredge the flesh side of a boneless, butterflied trout in blackening spice. Don't be shy!

Step 3: When butter foam subsides, place trout, flesh side down, into the pan. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook for 2 minutes (no peeking), then flip and cook for one minute on the opposite side.

Step 4: Place trout in warm oven and heat another ½ ounce of butter in a fresh skillet. Add 1 clove of garlic, minced, one sliced scallion and one ripe tomato, seeded and diced. Sautée until fragrant.

Step 5: Add 7 oz. cooked linguine to vegetables in skillet. Add two tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese and toss to coat.

Step 6: Serve trout atop linguine (along with accumulated pan juices) and garnish with sliced scallions. Chef Gray also gilds the lily with lemon butter sauce and crabmeat...and maybe he'll share those secrets another day.

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