The other day I received a surprise de-briefing from my local fish monger. As I obliquely scanned the beautifully displayed case and mumbled ‘red snapper’, he dropped everything, came around the counter, and pulled me aside.
With his hands pressed in front of him, he gazed off to the side and softly explained that Red Snapper is an excellent fish that originates in Atlantic waters and not widely available on the west coast. He pointed out that the misleading label Pacific Red Snapper is simply some sort of rockfish. I guess I’m the last person to get the message. That’s okay, in Tahiti ‘lagoon fish’ is always a delicious menu choice. I happily headed out with 3 sweet smelling rockfish fillets.
Rockfish is a bass-like species, with a large mouth and spines on its head. Nothing like the red snapper I recall. This large variety of fish can range in color from copper or red to blue, green or black, and can even sport colorful speckles or stripes.
Still, rockfish are mild flavored, highly marketed and very popular. With all that demand, some can be subject to overfishing and destructive practices. For a reliable resource, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch provides plenty of recommendations to threatened and endangered species. They have both online information as well as an app available for download.
So here’s the genesis behind the red snapper/rockfish event. The secret to the success of this dish is the outstanding bread crumb marinade. Not only does it add flavor and moisture to the fish, the top crisps and gives an unexpected crunchiness when placed close to the heat.
Of course, any firm fleshed fish will work, including halibut, tuna, cod, shark…
Rockfish Fillets with Bread Crumb Marinade
1 pound firm fish fillets, rockfish/snapper, lingcod
⅓ cup chopped parsley
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 anchovy fillets (or 1 tsp paste)
Few sprigs basil, chopped
½ cup dry bread crumbs
⅓ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
pinch red pepper flakes
- Combine marinade by mixing together the parsley through red pepper flakes; it should be fairly moist.
- Line baking sheet with non-stick foil. Massage marinade into whole fillets. Let stand for 1 hour at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate several hours.
- Using top heat source, broil @ 450°F for 8-10 minutes until flaky and crumbs are crisp and brown. Can be held a few minutes at lower heat. Yield: 4 servings