Freshly cracked pepper, sea salt and maybe a dash of soy sauce are all the seasoning freshly caught yelloweye want. Topped with hollandaise sauce and served on pan-toasted English muffins with sides of thick bacon, summer squash, ruby red grapefruit and ruby red mimosas, this is the kind of breakfast that makes you happy you’re a fisherman – or married to one!
Like single malt Scotch and country drives in autumn, when it comes to table fare there are no bad rockfish. But within genus Sebastes, some cook up better than others. In Japan, small but tasty mebaru (Sebastes inermis) are among the most highly prized fish wherever they are found. Here in Alaska, yelloweye (Sebastes ruberrimus), which can grow to over 30 inches (80 centimeters) and 20 pounds (9 kilograms) are the stars. The sweet, delicately flavored meat puffs up slightly when cooked and flakes off in large, firm chunks for a taste and texture that is unparalleled among rockfish.
When preparing fillets this way, a good rule of thumb is nine minutes per one inch of thickness, thus a fillet one inch thick will be cooked for about nine minutes.
I pan toast English muffins (or any other toast) by using about three parts olive oil to one part butter (or no butter at all) over low to medium-low heat in a heavy frying pan. Heat the oil, add the bread, toast, flip and do the other side. This produces tasty toast, and you can do it in any kitchen, over a Coleman stove, or in a galley.
Yelloweye Rockfish Benedict
- 1 rockfish fillet about 3/4 lb to 1 lb, cut in half to serve 2 people. We generally prefer our fillets scaled, skin on. (Skin removed is fine.)
- soy sauce (optional)
- olive oil
- 3 egg yolks
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- healthy pinch or two of cayenne pepper (or mildly fiery chili-based seasoning such as the Southwestern rubs made by Penzys or Dean & Deluca)
- 2 English muffins, sliced in half, toasted
- Melt butter in a small pan over low heat.
- Set up a double boiler by putting some water in a pot and bring it to boil. In a smaller pot, place egg yolks and lemon juice. Place this smaller pan in the larger pot, but not in the water. The steam will heat the smaller pot.
- Vigorously whisk the egg and lemon mixture until it increases in volume.
- Slowly drizzle the melted butter into the whisked egg mixture, add a pinch of slat, and continue to whisk until everything is blended.
- Set aside. This mixture can be warmed again, if necessary. If it’s too thick, whisk in a few drops of water. Too thin, cook more, being sure to continue whisking/stirring.
To cook the rockfish:
- Rinse the fillets, pat dry with paper towels, and place on a cutting board, skin side down. Add freshly cracked pepper and sea salt and set aside.
- In a skillet large enough to hold the fillets so that they don’t touch, place enough olive oil to liberally cover the bottom of the pan and heat over medium-low heat.
- When the oil is hot enough to make the fish sizzle, add the fillets skin side down. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Turn the fillets and sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Add about 1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce (optional) and continue cooking for 4 minutes.
Place toasted English muffins on plates, place the fillets on the muffins, and spoon on the Hollandaise. Sprinkle on a dusting of cayenne pepper or a similarly fiery pepper-based rub. Serve with seasonal vegetables. We enjoyed this meal with mimosas made with freshly-squeezed ruby red grapefruit.