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Dinner at the Rockfish Cafe

Four ways to cook the Bay’s favorite fish

What a year we’ve had for rockfish! In our fifth month of abundance, big fish are still just about everywhere in the mid-Bay, with anglers catching them using just about every method.
    Eating fresh Chesapeake rockfish is one of the perks of living in the Tidewater. One of the many attributes of the fish is that its flavor can be influenced by the addition of easy-to-make sauces, which can give a fresh rockfish dinner a completely different taste each time you serve it.

Fishfinder

  Rockfish are still abundant throughout the mid-Bay. The larger fish are getting harder to find, but stripers to 24 inches are falling to chumming and live-lining at Podickery, Swan Point and Love Point, the Bay Bridge, Gum Thickets, Hackett’s, Tolley, Thomas Point, the Hill and the False Channel. The rockfish top-water bite is slow but should soon pick up.
  Big perch are everywhere and taking bloodworms and razor clams, as are big spot and a few croaker. Down around Breezy Point, croaker to 17 inches are teeming at the Gooses and now at Parker Creek in 15 to 20 feet of water. Big redfish (36 to 40 inches) have also made a showing there, as have Spanish mackerel.
  Crabbing remains difficult everywhere, but the jimmies are getting fatter with cooler weather.

Redfish and Seatrout Tourney
  The first annual Coastal Conservation Association Chesapeake Bay Redfish and Seatrout Catch-and-Release Tournament offers cash prizes in three categories: light tackle, fly and kayak. Enthusiastic participation — and positive economic impact for slumping Crisfield — helps Maryland Department of Natural Resources carry out a plan to manage spotted seatrout as a trophy fishery. Sa Sept. 7 & Su Sept. 8 out of Crisfield: www.ccamd.org;
email tony@ccamd.org.

Hunting Season

Mourning dove: Sept. 2 thru Oct. 5
Rail birds: Sept. 2 thru Nov. 9
Resident Canada goose, early season:
Eastern Zone: Sept. 2-14; Western Zone: Sept. 2-25. Calvert County is in the Eastern zone. Anne Arundel divides. For zone boundaries, see www.eregulations.com/maryland/
mdhd12/early-resident-canada-goose-seasons-bag-limits.

Pan Roasted Rockfish
    Blot dry two skinless rockfish fillets (2 to 3 pounds), then rub with olive oil, salt and pepper and dust with sugar. Place in a hot cast iron or heavy ovenproof skillet. Brown one side, two to three minutes.
    Carefully turn fillets and transfer skillet to a pre-heated 425-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily in the thickest part of the fillet.

Variation 1: Roasted Rockfish with Hollandaise Sauce
    While fillets are browning in the oven:
    Melt 11⁄4 sticks of butter in saucepan and maintain its heat.
    Put 3 egg yolks, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and dash of Tabasco sauce in blender on medium-high for 30 seconds.
    Change blender to lowest setting. Very slowly drizzle in hot butter, discarding the residual solids at the bottom of the pan. Then pour the now thickened sauce from the blender back to the saucepan, keeping it warm over a low heat and occasionally stirring to keep it from separating (if the sauce separates, return it briefly to the blender).
    Remove the fillets from the oven, transfer to a warm platter and pour Hollandaise over fish. Dust with paprika or sprinkle with capers and serve.

Variation 2: Roasted Rockfish with Mediterranean Salsa
    Before browning rockfish:

Dice three plum tomatoes
1⁄4 cup chopped sweet onion
1⁄3 cup chopped green olives with pimento
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1⁄3 lime
1 teaspoon salt

    In bowl, mix well.
    Then brown fillets as above and, just before serving, sauté salsa until it is heated through.
    Transfer fillets from skillet to warm platter and spoon warm salsa over them. Place remaining salsa in bowl on table for extras.

Variation 3: Roasted Rockfish Smothered in Mushrooms

2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon tarragon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3⁄4 stick of butter
1 cup white wine
1 heaping tablespoon corn starch

    While fillets are browning in the oven:
    Sauté mushrooms in butter and add lemon juice and tarragon.
    Mix cornstarch with the wine until dissolved, then add slowly to mushrooms, bringing to a slow simmer while constantly stirring. If the sauce thickens too much add more wine; if not enough add a bit more cornstarch and wine.
    Simmer mushrooms and sauce until the fillets are done.
    Remove fish from oven, transfer to warm platter. Pour the mushrooms and sauce over the fillets, dust with paprika and serve.

Fried Rockfish Fingers with Dipping Sauces
    Cut skinless rockfish fillets (about one-half pound per person) into finger-sized pieces approximately one inch wide and three or four inches long. Blot pieces dry with paper towel.
    Dip in a sticky batter of:

1⁄4 cup beer
2 tablespoons flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt

    Roll in Panko (Japanese bread crumbs).
    Fry in a heavy pan with about one-half inch of peanut or corn oil at 400 degrees until golden brown on all sides.
    Accumulate pieces in a warm oven on a platter lined with paper towels.
    In center of table, place dipping sauces in small bowls with Frank’s Hot Sauce, ranch or blue cheese dressing and Buffalo wings hot sauce.
    Serve with cold beer and lots of napkins.