Yields 6 servings
1 5-lb. Pacific rockfish
4 cups peanut oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. Old Bay seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
Clean the fish, removing the scales and internal organs. Using kitchen shears, lift the gill plate and carefully cut out the entire cluster of gills on each side of the fish. Rinse and pat dry inside and out with paper towels. With a sharp knife, on each side of the fish’s body make 4-5 deep slices into the flesh, from top to bottom, spaced a few inches apart. The number of cuts may vary a bit. Mix the flour and Old Bay seasoning in a large pan and set aside.
Add at least 2 inches of oil to a large heavy frying pan and heat oil to 375 degrees F. (If using a deep fryer preheat to 375 degrees and follow manufacturer’s recommendations.)
Season the fish with salt and pepper and place into the flour mixture. Coat well, making sure to get seasoned flour into all the nooks and cavities, inside and out.
Gently place the floured fish into the hot oil and cook approximately 8-10 minutes on each side (or about 12 minutes in a deep fryer) until golden brown. Remove to paper towel-lined plate and let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
This is my wife Stela’s favorite seafood dish, whole deep-fried Pacific rockfish, also known as “pescado frito.” It’s said to have originated on the south coast of Spain, but it’s also a Baja fave. This simple fish dish is best served Baja-style, with warm tortillas, fresh salsa and ripe avocado. Be as creative as you like with the sides.
Remember, “Always ‘Stay Legal,’ and never take more than you’ll eat.”
~ Trevor Cook, Scuba Chef
This dish pairs well with a citrusy Sauvignon Blanc, like the 2016 Decoy out of Sonoma County, which will compliment the mild flavor and light flaky texture of the fish.
Pacific Rockfish Facts
Genus and Species: Sebastes spp.
Other Common Names: Rockfish, snapper, Pacific snapper, rock cod, black bass, ocean perch.
Description: Ranging anywhere from 1 pound to nearly 40 pounds, rockfish are commonly described by their skin color. Rockfish have a football-shaped body with large body-length dorsal fins and spiny body fins. Rockfish range in color and size depending on habitat.
Range: Most common rockfish in the Pacific region range from as far north as Oregon and Washington and south into Mexico’s Baja California waters.
Habitat: Rocky outcrops and kelp forest are most likely to yield rockfish for the recreational diver. However, some rockfish can be found hundreds of feet below the surface and can only be caught on hook and line.
Fishing Information: The recreational fishery for rockfish is open year-round to divers and shore-based anglers. The fishery is open to boat-based anglers through December 31, 2017. These species may only be taken or possessed in waters less than 360 feet (60 fathoms) deep. The daily bag and possession limit is 10 fish in combination of all species within the RCG Complex (includes all species of rockfish, cabezon and greenlings) per person, with a sub-limit on black rockfish (3 per person) and canary rockfish (1 per person), also included in the 10 fish RCG Complex aggregate limit. Yelloweye rockfish, bronzespotted rockfish, and cowcod (PDF) may not be retained (bag limit: zero).
Rockfish are part of a group of fish known as groundfish, which includes over 90 species that live on or near the bottom of the ocean (with a few exceptions). View a summary of groundfish regulations at wildlife.ca.gov.
Source: CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife