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Quinn Boylan
Quinn Boylan pulling a double header of Rockfish on Boundless Boat Charters. Photo by David Boylan
Columns Food & Wine Lick the Plate

Lick the Plate: Serving up proper fish and chips with rockfish

As is the tradition this time of year with Lick the Plate, I venture out to sea with my friend and charter boat captain Mark Mihelich from Boundless Boat Charters based out of San Diego.

Some years, I also include stories from fishing the inland lakes of Michigan yet with the COVID-19 situation going on, I’ve not been back there this summer yet.

This time out with Captain Mark was a lot of fun as always, as he is a wealth of information and we had a great time recording an LTP radio show for 101.5 KGB.

That said, our quest for halibut was proving unsuccessful so Mark suggested we go for rockfish which is almost a sure thing about Boundless so we headed over to his rockfish “honey hole” and dropped our lines deep as they tend to be found down to 300 feet or more.

They are usually in the two to five-pound range but can get as large as 40 pounds and have been known to live up to 200 years. That is crazy!

On our first drop, my son Quinn Boylan actually hooked into about a six-foot shark, which proved quite a thrill, but it broke off before we were able to get it to the boat for a picture.

Soon after that, we were on to a bunch of rockfish including a doubleheader that is shown in the photo above. They are a wild-looking fish, almost prehistoric and despite their modest size, they put up quite a fight.  Pacific rockfish, also known as rock cod or Pacific snapper, is one of the most common near-shore fish on the West Coast. It’s an excellent tasting white-fleshed fish for quick and easy meals.

There are several varieties and while there are slight variations they are all firm, lean and mild-flavored.  It’s also super versatile in its preparation from fried to steamed or made into ceviche.

Fish and Chips
The rockfish fish and chips ready to eat. Photo by David Boylan

If you catch a whole rockfish, be sure to fillet the fish before cooking and if you have a few, keep the heads and bones as this lean, clean-tasting fish is perfect for fish stock. Since it is so mild with low oil content it will easily take on the flavors of the ingredients it is cooked with but also substantial enough to stand on its own.

I liken them to cod, which is one of my favorite fish to eat, and the foundation for what I consider to be the best fish and chips and of course I have my favorite way to prepare that. Before you begin, make sure you have the following ingredients and cooking devices.

For the fries get the largest russet potatoes you can find and purchase an inexpensive Mandoline for the easy cutting of the fries. At least a two-quart deep fryer is suggested and peanut oil holds high heat the best for deep-frying.

There are many schools of thought on the best fries including some that include a lot more work than I feel is needed. I simply fry them until they are golden brown, shake the grease off, and toss them in a healthy dose of salt, pepper and garlic salt. Add some Cajun seasoning to the mix if you are so inclined.

For the batter, I use a mix of egg and if you have a dark beer like a Guinness or Negra Modelo throw a splash of that in as well. I add some seasoning to the flour and do a triple-dip, back and forth three times between the flour and the batter, just like you would for fried chicken. You will know when it’s done as it starts to float to the top.

Tartar sauce and some coleslaw on the side and you will have all the fixings for a fabulous, crunchy, oh so delicious meal.  A cold lager works great with this meal or if you prefer a glass of wine, any Pinot Gris from Oregon will do the trick as well.

If I’m not feeling like alcohol with my meal my go-to is an ice-cold Mexican Coke or similar cane sugar-based soda. I always like to fry up some extra fish and use them in a fish sandwich the next day with some of that leftover coleslaw and tartar sauce on it.

That’s this year’s edition of fish stories and while maybe not as dramatic as year’s past, it’s definitely a tasty one!