Last June I went to Alaska, and I have not been able to stop talk about it since. Stunning, stunning, stunning. Huge, clean open spaces, the nicest people (I kind of hate when people say that because it seems like—it is—such a stereotypical generalization, albeit a good one), and oh, oh, oh the fish.
My chance to travel to this amazing state came via an invitation to join the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) on a trip to Alaska with a group of other food journalists. The goal was to learn all about their sustainable fishing industry as well as the plentiful seafood that comes from their waters. Is it unclear how quickly I said yes? I’m sure it is not.
My personal goal: to see how Alaskans cook their fish. And so I asked everyone I met that very question, and here’s what I learned.
A Rockfish Recipe: Alaskans’ Favorite Fish
It was an amazing trip, and when I got home, with some rockfish straight from the cold clean waters from Alaska, I went to work creating a taco worthy of the beautiful fish and of the advice I received from the generous people I met there. Jarl Gustafson in Homer, Alaska was the first person to extol the virtues of rockfish to me, which he says is “Alaskans’ favorite fish”: flaky, delicious, tender and economical. And it’s available all year round. So I start thinking about rockfish recipes.
The next day on a fishing boat charter fishermen Brian Ritchie and Wildfrid Roedl, also answer that rockfish is their number one choice of fish, and their favorite way to prepare their favorite fish is in tacos. And so that’s exactly what I did, because I’m no fool, and when people in the know tell me to do something, I usually do it. Especially if it has to do with food.
Rockfish is Alaskans’ favorite fish: flaky, delicious, tender and economical.Tweet This
What is Rockfish?
There are well over 30 species of rockfish found around the Alaska coastline. They come in red and non-red varieties, and they are harvested January through November. Black cod, or sablefish (also found in Alaska), is a good substitution if you can’t find it, or you can use cod, halibut or tilapia, and firm white fish. But, hey – try to find Alaskan Rockfish, wouldja?
How to Cook Rockfish?
Rockfish can be sautéed, grilled, broiled, roasted – really cooked any way a dense flaky white fish can be prepared. The flavor ranges from mild to more pronounced, and it takes well to sauces, marinades and rubs.
A Few Facts About the Alaskan Fishing Industry
Did you know that Alaska has 34,000 miles of coastline? Did you know that the laws of sustainable fishing were actually written into Alaska’s actual constitution in 1959? And that all Alaska fisheries are continuously monitored and fishing is strictly regulated for the survival of the species? That all Alaskan fishing boats have to be built in America (see: sustainability)? That it’s bad luck to change the name of a boat? Well, you will learn all of this and a lot more when you get to Alaska. Please tell everyone I said hi.
Before we get to the Alaskan Rockfish Tacos recipe, one more word about Alaska and bucket lists. Wherever it is on your bucket list, move it up a few notches. It’s a life changer. I’m not the first to say this, and when you go you won’t be the last to say it either.
Making the Tacos Ahead of Time
You can make the cabbage slaw up to 1 day ahead of time, though it will soften slightly. The filling is best made right before, but leftover cooked fish can be refrigerated and quickly warmed in the microwave the next day. You could also grill the fish instead of cooking it in a pan if you prefer – grilled rockfish tacos are another true treat. And I am going to be on the prowl for more rockfish recipes, and creating more recipes that feature rockfish, because when Alaskan fishermen tell me things about fish, I listen.
Want More Fish Taco Recipes?
Other Rockfish Recipes
(More coming on this blog soon!)
- Pan-Seared Rockfish with Lemon Beurre Blanc
- Portuguese Style Baked Rockfish
- Grilled Rockfish With Garlic and Basil
Alaska Rockfish Tacos
- 2 cups very thinly shredded cabbage preferably Napa
- 1 red onion halved and very thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon minced seeded jalapeno pepper
- 2 tablespoons cider or rice wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil divided
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 12 6-inch corn or flour tortillas
- 1 ½ pounds flaky white fish fillets such as Alaska rockfish or cod cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 clove garlic finely minced
- 3 teaspoons lime juice
To Serve (Pick and Choose)
- Diced avocado
- Fresh cilantro leaves
- Lime wedges
- Tomatillo or regular salsa
- Sour cream
- Toss the cabbage, onion and jalapeno with the vinegar and 2 teaspoons of the oil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Heat a large dry skillet over medium high heat. Heat the torillas one at a time, cooking for about 30 to 60 seconds on each side, until it is browned in spots and smells slightly toasty. Stack the tortillas on a plate as they are cooked, and repeat until all of the tortillsas have been toasted. Set aside.
- Sprinkle the pieces of fish all over with the cumin, chili powder, and salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in the large skillet over medium high heat. Add 1/3 of the fish and sauté until almost cooked through, turning it as needed, about 5 minutes in all. The pieces may fall apart a little as you cook them; that’s perfectly fine. During the last minute of cooking each batch, add about 1/3 of the garlic and toss over the heat. Place the fish on a serving plate as it is cooked and sprinkle each batch with 1 teaspoon of the lime juice. Keep going, adding a bit more oil as needed, and then adding the fish to the same plate as it is cooked, until all of the fish is sautéed and sprinkled with juice.
- Serve the fish with the toasted tortillas, cabbage slaw, and the toppings you like. Let everyone assemble their own tacos.
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