Tuesday afternoon,Mr. Hawthorne, Rosie, and Zelda headed to Manteo to the North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke Island.
The osprey cam is on.
Today, Chef Marc-Jean Berruet of The Pearl, located in the Sea Ranch in Kill Devil Hills, was preparing rockfish with a very unique, intriguing sauce - Scallopini of Striped Bass with a Sorrel Sauce
Today's fish is rockfish, AKA striper or striped bass. For each cooking class, we always have an explanation of the fish being prepared that day. This enlightening information is given by the most engaging and knowledgeable employees at the North Carolina Aquarium. Beth, Anne Marie, and Liz are wonderful and I applaud them. This season, the Outer Banks is seeing some of the best rockfishing it has in 5 or 6 years. Back in January, a 12 year old fishing out of Oregon Inlet landed a record-setting 63-pound rockfish. The previous record was a 62-pounder caught out of Oregon Inlet in 2005. January's record only lasted for 2 days when another giant striper weighing in at 64 pounds was reeled in. To read the latest on the recreational vs commercial brouhaha on rockfish in Dare County, please read the Outer Banks Voice's article on recent fish kills. The minimum catch size for rockfish is 28 inches.
Rockfish are anadromous, meaning they live their adult life in salt water and spawn in fresh water, laying anywhere from 1/2 million to 3 million eggs.
When buying rockfish, or any fish for that matter, check for clarity of the eyes and red gills full of blood as signs of freshness.
To release the filet, Chef Berruet cut a hole in the tail of the skin so he could stick his fingers in to hold the fish, then sliced down the filet to remove it from the skin.
He felt along the filets for any pin bones that needed removing. Then he cut the filets into small pieces. For a 7 pound fish, the yield was about 11 pieces per filet. I noticed Chef Berruet left the blood line in. I always remove this, but truth be told, it's not that noticeable in rockfish. For tuna, or other stronger-flavored fish, I would definitely remove it.
The rockfish scallopini were seasoned with salt and pepper, then dredged through flour. These were quickly sauteed in butter (for flavor) and oil (to raise the smoke point of the butter). The fish was removed from the pan, and Chef started on his sauce.
He added a chopped shallot to the pan and sweated it for about a minute, then added some vermouth and brought it to a boil.
Heavy cream was poured in and he reduced this by half. Now for the secret ingredient - sorrel paste. I've never had sorrel before, but this is just the beginning of a lovely relationship with this perennial herb. Zelda had joined the Hawthornes for this class and we both went out on Saturday, independently, looking for sorrel. I went to Central Garden Center and Nursery, WalMart, Home Depot, and Ace Hardware, all in Kitty Hawk. No luck. Zelda found it at Kitty Hawk Garden Center
on Woods Rd in Kitty Hawk, and was kind enough to bring me a plant. Mr. Hawthorne stopped there yesterday on his way home from work and picked up four more plants. Chef Berruet added his sorrel paste to the sauce. Sorrel has a taste like nothing else I've had. It's citrusy due to the ascorbic acid in it. I can't think of anything to sub for it. It's interesting to know that sorrel's sharp taste is due to oxalic acid, which is a poison. Sorrel is harmless in small quantities, but in large quantities it can be fatal. Wikipedia didn't elaborate on how large a quantity.
To make sorrel paste, chop the leaves, add water to cover, cook it for a while, then puree. The sorrel mixture was added to the sauce and spooned over the fish.
First, let me apologize for the crappy picture. My little Nikon CoolPix is autofocus and when it's faced with a monotone subject it doesn't know where to focus. I tried putting the fork in there so the camera could focus on it, but that didn't work either. I loved this sauce. Learning about the sauce was worth the price of the class. That said, one seven-pound rockfish does NOT 20 people feed.