By Contributing Writer Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin, Faculty member and Diversity + Inclusion Manager at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS); photographs, from top, by Andy Clifford, Rich Brame (3)
Oh, the things you learn about yourself when you spend 35 days on a NOLS course in the wilderness with a backpack and a fly rod—and without your family.
Such as, for example, how you were so looking forward to 35 nights of uninterrupted sleep and lazy mornings, only to realize that having a kid has made you a light sleeper and a morning person.
Or, for example, how excited you are to be “living off the land,” catching and eating 14-inch golden trout every day, only to realize that you’re about as good with a fly rod as you are with knitting needles, or any other activity requiring dexterity and patience. That is, you suck at fishing.
And by “you,” I’m not talking about you, dear reader. I’m most definitely talking about me.
So let’s talk about that trout. Although I couldn’t catch one for the life of me, I’d like to think I could cook one up to delectable perfection with this easy backcountry recipe for Fresh Trout WIZNUT, courtesy of NOLS Instructor John Whisnant). “The WIZNUT appeared in 1966 as a miracle response to our desperate pleas for cheesy crunch,” reflects John. Over the years, the WIZNUT has taken many forms, but the common denominator in any recipe is a layer of fried cheese at the bottom of the pan.
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup mixed veggies (rehydrated)
½ cup reconstituted potato flakes (rehydrated)
¼ cup thunder flakes (onion flakes, rehydrated)
¼ cup powdered milk
¼ cup butter
1 lb. cheddar cheese, sliced thin
2 Trout—10-12” each, preferably swimming 20 minutes before cooking (go with a non-native species if you can!)
1. Grease fry pan with a thin layer of butter. (We recommend the Banks Fry Bake, which we have used for decades.)
2. Fry the trout in the pan with spice until the meat comes off the bones.
3. Collect small dead twigs—enough to sustain a small twiggy fire on top of the pan lid for at least 30 minutes.
4. Remove fish from pan and de-bone (leave the little bits of trout and whatever butter is remaining in the pan).
5. Mix all ingredients except trout and cheese in a separate pot.
6. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with a layer of cheese.
7. Add half the rice mix in a layer over the cheese.
8. Add the trout in a layer over the rice mix.
9. Add the remaining rice mix over the trout.
10. Finish with the remaining cheese on top.
11. Seal tight with fry pan lid.
12. Set stove on a low simmer (you can do that with an MSR Whisperlite stove by slightly depressurizing the fuel can). Construct a small twiggy fire on top of the pan lid. Rotate the pan and keep the twiggy fire burning for half hour to an hour until the WIZNUT is golden brown and bubbling.