Some go through life with the misunderstanding that fish must be dredged in flour, deep fried in a bubble bath of fat, and smothered with tartar sauce. These poor unfortunate souls! Rockfish, an Atlantic Coast gem also known as the striped bass, should not be defiled as such. Don’t get me wrong, the occasional fried fish fillet is fine. Sometimes I am in just the mood for those battered, breaded catfish or cod sandwiches.
Although this bass can be cooked in almost any fashion – fried, grilled, baked, broiled etc. – I indulged in its meaty, yet flakey texture by braising it. The fish was a bit pricier, about $18 a pound, so perhaps store this one for one of those special nights during the long, drawn-out school year. I assure you it is well worth the pocket pinch. [And I know this is such a sharp contrast to my last post about being so broke…well, I had this one when I came back to visit the parents so I got a little financial help.]
Side dish pairings for this dinner escape me; they were fleeting in comparison. I loaded my plate with as much fish as anyone was willing to spare from their own portion. My first experience with rockfish was a delicacy to be favored, as well as savored. The thick buttery cream sauce cut with the acidity of the lemon and punch of white wine was a great compliment to the rockfish; no lingering, pungent fishy taste. Braising the fish was allowed for a crisp outer layer, while leaving the delicate layers of meat to simmer slowly.
I could not have been more pleased with the outcome of this succulent dish. Cooking fish is a sensory art – I have turned a fish into shoe leather before, but this time may have been my most excellent attempt yet. It was perfectly cooked and wonderfully seasoned, without drowning it in an overpowering sauce or spice rub.
I also have fished for striper before, having not yet had a fruitful cast. Knowing what waits on the other end of the line though will make me strive all the more in my future ocean escapades.
Braised Rockfish with a Lemon Cream Sauce
1 lb rockfish, one side with scales
Salt and pepper
2 T unsalted butter
About ½ cup water
¼ cup dry white wine
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1. Divide fish, season with salt, pepper and a few squirts of lemon juice.
2. In sauté pan with lid, heat butter over high heat.
3. Place fish, scale side down, into pan. Allow fish to sear uncovered until crisp on scale side, turn over, repeat. About 3 min on each side – should see fish turn more solid white color.
4. Reduce heat to medium low, add water – will splatter, allow water to cook down. Add wine and cream.
5. Cover and cook for about 10-15 min. Make sure fish has cooked all the way through but DO NOT overcook. Fish should flake when forked and melt like butter in your mouth. Overcooked it will become rubbery.