Sea-sational | Recipe: Virginia Low Country Rockfish

Rockfish has long had a fanciful history in the region;
Captain John Smith, in his descriptive writing style, noted that in the early
17th century, the fish was so plentiful in the Bay that one could walk across
the water on their backs. So enjoyed was rockfish, that one of the first
conservations statutes in the New World was written in 1639 to protect the

More information and recipe after the Jump

It is easy to see why rockfish is so popular –
the white, flaky meat has a mild flavor and adapts to many preparation methods
and cooking styles.

When shopping for rockfish in market, look for
flesh that is firm – slightly press on the fish, and the meat should not easily
yield; look for bright, clear eyes; there should be a clean, sea-like briny
aroma; the overall appearance should be pleasant.

Three great Virginia flavors
come together in this fish dish: beautiful rockfish, so plentiful in the waters off Virginia Beach from late autumn through
early spring, are perfectly pan seared and served atop a slice of Virginia
country ham and topped with a generous serving of pesto made with the large Virginia-type peanut.



3 cups fresh basil leaves, stems removed and loosely

¾ cup roasted, unsalted Virginia peanuts

3 garlic cloves, peeled

¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

¼ cup freshly grated romano cheese

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil


4 eight-ounce rockfish
filets, skin on

8 slices Virginia country ham, cut thin

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste



In a food processor or blender, add basil leaves and
process until well chopped, scraping the bowl as necessary.

Add peanuts, garlic, parmesan, romano, red pepper flakes,
salt and process until well chopped, scraping the bowl as necessary.

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and olive oil
and slowly drizzle in blender, processing until mixture is well combined,
creamy and smooth.


Prepare the rockfish
filets by any bones and seasoning skin-free side with salt and pepper. Prepare
a baking sheet by rubbing with a small amount of oil. Preheat oven to 375F.
Heat a small amount of oil in a sauté pan over high heat and carefully place
the rockfish, skin-side up, in the pan. Cook for
about 3 minutes, until the flesh begins to brown. Remove filets from pan and
place skin-side down on baking sheet. Roast in oven about 10 minutes, checking
to make sure flesh is cooked but still moist.

Serve rockfish
over two thin slices of country ham and top with a pesto to

We are proud to partner with Virginia Seafood [LINK] in our Sea-sational series to promote all the wonderful things to eat from our waters and the people that bring it from Dock to Dish.

Photo by Edwin Remsburg [LINK], from the book, Dishing Up Virginia [LINK]

FOR READS, RECIPES, RESOURCES and more, please subscribe to our free newsletters and magazine HERE [LINK]

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