Southen Fried Rockfish
By Capt. Andy Martin – Years ago I enjoyed the chance to spend a week fishing in Venice, Louisiana. We spent a few days fishing for redfish in the Mississippi Delta, and some time in the Gulf of Mexico, catching yellowfin tuna near the offshore oil rigs. On the final day, the lodge I fished out of had a giant fish fry. The shrimp boil was amazing. The fried redfish and speckled trout also was good. I thought “frying Oregon Coast rockfish this was would be great.”
Nothing against catfish, or what locals in the Gulf Coast refer to as trout, or redfish, but anglers who get to fish the Oregon Coast are spoiled by the great-tasting rockfish, halibut and lingcod we get to catch. Pacific coast rockfish are among the best-eating fish around, and can be cooked a variety of ways. The firm, flaky, white flesh makes some of the best fish and chips anywhere.
In much of the country, a cornmeal-based breading is the typical way to fry fish. West Coast anglers are more accustomed to beer batter or panko breading. Rockfish coated in cornmeal, with some cajun seasonings, also are delicious.
Cornmeal coated rockfish
2 pounds rockfish fillets, each cut in half or thirds
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup frying oil
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Cornmeal can burn over higher heats, and shallow pan frying generally works better than deep frying with a cornmeal coating.
In a bowl, combined milk and lemon juice. Allow rockfish fillets to soak for 5 to 10 minutes while oil heats. This will serve as the binder for the cornmeal coating and the fish.
In a separate bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, creole seasoning and salt and pepper. Mix, and then place in a paper bag. (A large Ziplock bag also will work).
Place two to four of the rockfish fillet pieces in the bag, shake well, and place in the hot oil. Cook until golden brown, usually 4 to 5 minutes per side.
The key to this recipe is a medium to medium-high heat to make the fish crispy. Too hot and the cornmeal will burn. Too low of a temperature and the fish will not be as crispy. Cut larger fillets into three or four pieces so the fish cooks evenly and quickly. Allow to drain/dry on a wire rack instead of on a paper towel over a plate for crispier fish.
The paper bag makes for an easy cleanup. Simply discard the bag after the fish are fried.
Homemade tarter sauce
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped dill pickle
1/4 cup finely chopped white or yellow onion
2 teaspoons chopped capers
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste.
Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix well.