Meet my friend, Virginia Willis, former Kitchen Director for Martha Stewart Living Television, award-winning author of Bon Appetit, Y’all and this week celebrating the release of her brand new book, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all.

I first met Virginia a couple of years ago at an IACP conference in Portland and I asked her to speak at a Food Blog Forum event we held last year in her hometown, Atlanta. The moment you meet Virginia, you know you’ve made a friend for life. She has that effect on people – you can’t help but be pulled in by her Southern charm and generous spirit.

Virginia’s Southern roots are complemented by her French culinary training. Her recipes are just that – good ol’ homey Southern recipes with a touch of French elegance. Her new book, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all is all about that special little somethin’ to turn a basic recipe to “Brilliant.”

Who else would tell you to top your jambalaya with Cracklin’ Powder? Just run to the store, grab a bag of fried pig skin (Cracklin’s) and pulse them in your food processor. Sprinkle them on anything (I’ve done it to popcorn!!)

Today’s recipe, Pan-Seared Trout is from her book, and she turns this basic recipe to brilliant with a simple Pecan Brown Butter that’s drizzled over the fish.

Virginia asked me to write a little blurb for the cover of the book – this is what I wrote for the inside flap:

“As a busy mom, I truly appreciate Virginia’s Brilliant tips that accompany every recipe; many of them take only a few minutes more to transform ordinary family favorites to extraordinary, company-worthy centerpieces. From these tips, I’ve learned so many clever techniques, short recipes and presentation ideas!”  ~Jaden 

Pan-Seared Trout with Pecan Brown Butter Recipe

Make sure you read the Brilliant Short Recipe below to turn this Pan-Seared Georgia Trout into Brilliant!
5 from 1 vote
Servings 4


  • 1/4 cup canola oil, plus more for the baking sheet
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped
  • 1 cup plain or whole-wheat fresh or panko (Japanese) breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 (6- to 8-ounce) skin-on trout fillets
  • Lemon wedges, for garnish


  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 200°F. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with canola oil and place in the oven to warm.
  • Combine the pecans, breadcrumbs, and parsley in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Season with salt and pepper. Press the flesh side of each fillet into the pecan mixture.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place 2 trout in the pan, crust side down, and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and cook until fish is opaque in the center and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the trout to the prepared baking sheet, crust side up. Place the baking sheet in the oven. Repeat the process with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the remaining 
2 trout fillets. Transfer to warmed serving plates and serve immediately, garnished with the lemon.


  • Basic panfried trout is elevated to Brilliant when dressed with Pecan Brown Butter. Wipe the skillet clean with paper towels. Add 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter and melt over medium heat. Allow the butter to foam and turn medium brown, swirling the pan occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat, add the finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, 1/4 cup chopped pecans, and 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley; season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the trout, crust side up, on warmed serving plates. Drizzle with the pecan butter. Serve immediately.


Recipe from Basic to Brilliant, Y'all by Virginia Willis.
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