It never gets old telling people how lucky we are to have access to such great fresh, local seafood here in Seattle. And yet, it always surprises me when I run into someone from these parts who has never tried their hand at cooking fish at home. True, we have an abundance of talented chefs in the city who dazzle us with their culinary improvisation on the latest catch of the day. But I’m all for breaking down the misconception that you have to go all fine-dining when you can easily make a great seafood meal at home.
A mild, whitefish is usually a good place to start. Here along the Pacific Northwest coast, we have a wonderful, meaty, whitefish called rockfish. Not only does it work well in recipes like fish tacos, it’s also sustainable and listed as a Best Choice in the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guide. It’s an affordable fish that you can buy both fresh and frozen. At the time of this post, my local grocery store had fresh rockfish for $5.99 a pound, that’s less than $2.00 for a 5-oz portion. Not a bad choice if you’re looking to add more seafood to your diet, but don’t want to blow your whole grocery budget.
With a milder tasting fish, I like to keep things light, but flavorful. Instead of dousing this fish with butter and cream, I came up with a variation of a Spanish inspired romesco sauce, which is nut and pepper based and traditionally paired with fish. I also took some inspiration from a stroll through my neighborhood farmer’s market and created a sugar snap pea and kohlrabi-carrot slaw to pair with the fish. Because one can never have too many flavors, colors or fresh vegetables. This recipe screams, “Try me!” I promise it will not disappoint.
Baked Rockfish With Romesco & Farmer’s Market Slaw
For the rockfish:
6 medium rockfish filets
3/4 cup roasted red peppers
1/2 medium, vine-ripe tomato
2 small slices of day-old crusty baguette, cut about 1-inch thick
3 TBS sliced almonds
3 TBS grated parmesan cheese
1 large clove garlic
4 tsp sherry cooking wine* (you could also use red or white wine vinegar)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped, fresh spinach
1 package lemon thyme
2 small lemons
For the slaw:
2 cups sugar snap peas
3 medium carrots
1 large kohlrabi
1 cup kohlrabi greens
3 TBS rice wine vinegar
1 TBS sesame oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
I recommend starting this recipe by making the slaw and then refrigerating it so all the flavors can meld while you prepare the filling and bake the fish.
For the Slaw:
Rinse all your vegetables. Remove the stem and any fibrous string from the sugar snap peas and then cut them on a bias using the back end of your knife in a quick downward slicing motion. Place them in a medium mixing bowl. Peel the carrots. Place the carrot horizontally onto your cutting board. Use your peeler to shave the carrot into thin ribbons. The more pressure you place on the peeler, the thicker the ribbon. Continue until you are no longer able to peel the carrot. Place shaved carrot ribbons into the bowl. Remove the thick stems from the kohlrabi greens and roll a few leaves into a bunch and chiffonade or slice into the greens until you get a thin ribbon-like cut. Add to the bowl.
Last, using a small paring knife to trim and remove the fibrous outer layer of the kohlrabi. Cut it in half as you would cut an onion. From here, I prefer cutting each half again so I can then have four pieces which I slice down into thin sticks. Add this to the bowl with the other vegetables and season with rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Put in refrigerator to chill.
For the Fish:
In a small, non-stick saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. When warm, add the slices of crusty baguette. Let them toast until just golden brown on each side, then set aside to let cool.
Wipe out any remaining oil from pan. Add in sliced almonds and toast until just lightly browned. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a food processor, add in torn up chunks of toasted bread and almonds. Pulse until you get a medium crumb.
Add in roasted red peppers, tomato, parmesan cheese, garlic, sherry and salt. Blend until a thick paste develops. Set aside.
For the remaining prep, you’ll need to rinse, drain and then roughly chop the fresh spinach. Next, remove leaves from stems of lemon thyme and chop. Juice one lemon and set aside in a small bowl, then slice the second into six thin slices to place on top of each filet.
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
Always take a minute to check for any pinbones in your fish. You can ask the fishmonger at your grocery store to remove them for you or you can use a small tweezer to gently pull them out. To avoid tearing the fish, place your hand gently above the bone and with your tweezer, slowly pull out and down towards you.
Place your fish onto a large plate and generously salt and pepper each side.
You’ll want to spread the filling on the side of the filet that has the brown veins so that when you roll the filet, the clear, white side will become your outer “presentation” side.
Use 2-3 TBS of the romesco per filet. Spread over the entire filet.
Next, sprinkle all filets evenly with the lemon thyme.
Top with 1-2 TBS of the chopped spinach and drizzle with lemon juice.
Begin with the widest and thickest end of each filet, and slowly roll and tuck the filet until you get to the end.
Place filets on a baking sheet. Garnish each with a slice of lemon.
Place into the oven on the middle rack for about 20 minutes or until the fish turns from translucent to opaque and easily flakes. You can also test the internal temperature with a thermometer and make sure it reaches 140º.
To serve, place a portion of slaw on the plate and nestle a stuffed filet on top.