Sea to Table: Acadian Redfish Feast


By Lisa Helme Danforth:

Not to be confused with the popular Cajun dish, blackened redfish (really a red drum,) Acadian Redfish is an Ocean State classic. Like many of our lesser known species Acadian redfish has, well, a colorful history. Commonly known as ocean perch, it’s one of three common redfish found in the Northwest Atlantic. According to NOAA, it was “discovered” as a commercial grade fish in the 1930’s. It adapted well to commercial harvest and preservation and was a staple in the diet of our military in the 1940s and 50s.

But like with so many of our species, what we didn’t know almost did them in. Acadian redfish grow slowly, live a long time (50 years!) and reproduce at low levels, making them subject to overfishing. By the 1980s the stock was dangerously low. Subsequently the harvests and demand plummeted, which is why you may not have heard much about these redfish until recently.
The good news is that through fisheries management and protection the stock is back. Through a rebuilding plan implemented in 2004 the Acadian redfish population rebounded and now the stock exceeds target population levels, and so is making a comeback on the table. Groups such as REDNET and Gulf of Maine Research Institute are actively looking at ways to market the redfish – perhaps the next Chilean Sea Bass?

This recipe by Chef Max, of The Ocean House in Watch Hill Rhode Island, is a favorite. Simple, delicious, and best served with a cold glass of Sancerre, Chef Max recommends Pascal Jolivet. This recipe is great not only for the Acadian redfish, also for another local favorite, the porgy, which continues to be marketed by an increasingly long list of names in addition to long-time scup. If you check out some of the tonier eateries, you will see it listed as silver snapper or perhaps pan fish, all with the goal of imparting the cache of Chilean Sea Bass which is, after all, just Peruvian toothfish. But that’s another story.

-Pan Roasted Acadian Redfish Recipe-

Ingredients:

  • One 1 1⁄4 -pound fish dressed and scaled. Congratulations if you caught it!
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • 4 parsley stems
  • 3 crushed garlic cloves
  • 6 halved lemon slices
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine Vegetable oil for cooking Butter for finishing
  • Fresh lemon juice for finishing
  • Fresh chopped herbs

Cooking Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 450°.
2. In a large sauté pan add canola and heat the pan at medium high.
3. Brush the fish with oil and season generously inside and out with salt and pepper.
4. Stuff the cavity of the fish with the parsley stems, garlic and lemon.
5. Sear the fish in the center of the sauté pan for about 3 minutes on one side, the skin will be crispy and brown. Flip the fish over and place the entire sauté pan into the 450 degree oven for between 3-5 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part near the head registers 135°.)
6. Remove from the oven and add white wine, butter and lemon juice and baste fish. Add fresh herbs to finish.
7. Let rest for 2-3 minutes and serve.

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