Meet the rock sole. He is a pretty two-dimensional character, which is to say he’s a flatfish. With both eyes on one side of his body, he can’t really tell what’s going on behind him, but that’s ok for this relaxed fellow who likes to move at a more sedentary pace. Following schools of plankton, bivalves and crustaceans, he wanders the gravel bottom coastlines of the continental shelf and steep rock slopes of Puget Sound, from the Bering Sea all the way to Southern California And these days, he’s doing pretty well for himself. Rock sole populations are booming in the Gulf of Alaska, at over twice the target biomass level. Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program has even deemed Pacific flatfish a “good alternative” to those caught in the Atlantic. Not that this impresses the rock sole. He just wants to mind his own business and not get turned into hirame sushi. However, his mild, sweet flesh and flaky texture makes him an affordable and tasty option for seafood lovers. Plus, rock sole is the perfect canvas for simple, bold flavors, as demonstrated by the recipe below. With thin, fast-cooking fillets, the meal will be ready in no time.
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Tray-Baked Rock Sole with Lemon, Olive and Tomato
Adapted from Jamie Oliver
4 whole rock soles (or any other flat fish)
2 handfuls of red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a handful of fresh oregano or basil, leaves picked
a bunch of spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, zested and halved
extra virgin olive oil
a handful of black olives, destoned and chopped
a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
First of all give your fish a wash, then with a sharp knife score across each fish down to the bone at 1 inch intervals on both sides. This allows flavour to penetrate the fish and lets the fish’s juices come out.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Get yourself a bowl and add the tomatoes, garlic, oregano or basil, spring onions, balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt and pepper and the zest and juice of 1 lemon to it. Loosen with a couple of good tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and mix well, then spread over the bottom of a large roasting tray. Use one that will fit all 4 fish quite snugly (or you can use two smaller trays). Place the fish on top – top to tail.
Now add the olives, parsley, juice and zest of the second lemon to the bowl that the tomatoes were in. Loosen with a little olive oil and then divide this mixture between the fish, placing an equal amount on the centre of each. Cook in the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. To check whether they’re done, take the tip of a knife and push it into the thickest part of the fish. When done, the flesh will easily pull away from the bone.
Once cooked, remove the fish from the oven and allow them to rest for 3 or 4 minutes while you get your guests round the table, serve them some wine and dress your salad. Then you can come back to the fish. Divide them up at the table on to 4 plates, making sure that everyone gets some tomatoes and juice spooned over the top of the fish. Lovely!