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'Top Chef Portland' star wants you to try more of Oregon's sustainable rockfish

KGW's monthly series 'Oregon In Season' goes to the southern coast, where Chef Sara Hauman hops on a boat and cooks up her catch that you can dine on this week!

PORT ORFORD, Ore — Top Chef Portland on Bravo this year has really helped bring tourism back to our state. The show took chef contestants to four regions of Oregon as they whittled it down to the best.    

KGW has teamed up with Travel Oregon and Portland chef Sara Hauman, who was a fan favorite on the show and made it really far with the judges, for a monthly series we started in August called 'Oregon In Season.' Each month through December, she's highlighting a different region and seasonal ingredient, then pairing up with a chef in that region to feature the dish on their weekly specials menu.

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The fall is perfect for reeling in rockfish along Oregon's coast. We have dozens of varieties and they swim and hang out along the bottom or along rocks. We ventured down to Port Orford to go fishing for it.

Credit: KGW
Top Chef Portland alum Sara Hauman reeled in several fish in the first few minutes off the coast of Port Orford, OR

Chef Sara Hauman and Chef Paul Grossi both love fishing. Grossi is head chef at Redfish restaurant, where diners eat atop the cape overlooking the bay and seastacks of Port Orford, a six-hour drive south of Portland. It's the finest dining on the southern Oregon Coast with all sustainably caught seafood and local meat and vegetables. The southern Oregon Coast is an area you may not be familiar with. But put this spot on your road trip itinerary!

Credit: KGW
Sara Hauman and chef Paul Grossi show their collaboration of a locally caught rockfish pan fried with seasonal pickles and seaweed jam.

Port Orford juts out into the Pacific — the farthest west of any point in the state. That means it gets a clash of ocean tides and weather, making for good fishing. But the way fishing vessels get in and out of the water here is something else. They're hoisted down onto the ocean by crane using four ropes at each corner of the boat. Port Orford is one of only six of these dolly ports in the whole world to do it this way. 

Credit: KGW
The view from the cape overlooking the bay of Port Orford, OR. It's also the view from Redfish restaurant.

"Most of my fishing is usually done off the bank by the jetty so I'm excited to get out here and see what this has to offer," said Grossi as we were headed out. "I really want a nice small rockfish," Hauman said. "We're going to pair it with a sauce made out of seaweed and that's a seaweed we're going to use fresh and is in the waters here."

South Coast Tours got us all set up. They have the rods and fishing gear for any kind of adventure, and boy did it happen quick! Hauman and Grossi pulled up 5-6 varieties of rockfish in about 15 minutes using a hook and line. Fall is also great whale watching season and we spotted two gray whales feeding in the bay as we motored by.

RELATED: Top Chef Portland's Sara Hauman shares her tips for a sustainable kitchen

Back in the Redfish kitchen, the chefs cleaned and gutted the fish and cut slits along the body to allow flavor to get to the meat and for it pan fry faster.

"Rockfish is very versatile, the meat is very neutral so it takes on a lot of sauce flavors that you want to pair with it," Hauman explained. "The other great thing about rockfish is it's incredibly sustainable, there's a ton of it off the Oregon coast, we should definitely be eating more rockfish."

Credit: KGW
Cornmeal crusted, pan fried rockfish with seasonal pickles and seaweed jam at Redfish Restaurant in Port Orford.

Hauman and Grossi dredged the whole fish in a mix of cornmeal, flour and cornstarch, then put it in piping-hot, neutral oil to pan fry on both sides. Adding butter and garlic cloves then it comes out and the chefs topped it with dulce seaweed jam (recipe below if you'd like to try at home) and some seasonal pickled veggies and fruits. Locally caught rockfish prepared any number of ways is always on the menu at Redfish, but this special collaboration between chefs will be on the specials menu this week only in Port Orford!

Want to make it? Here are the recipes:

Dulse Seaweed Jam

  • 8 oz. fresh dulse seaweed
  • 2 Cups water
  • ½ Cup soy sauce or tamari
  • 3 Tbsp mirin
  • 3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ Tbsp sugar

Place all ingredients into a large saucepot and bring to a simmer. Stirring every 8-10 minutes, cook the seaweed jam on low to medium heat until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth, adding water as needed to adjust to your desired consistency.

Fried Rockfish

  • 1 whole rockfish, gutted and cleaned
  • salt
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • Fry oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

Pat the skin of the rockfish dry and then make a few slashes on each side of the filets. Season generously with salt. In a large pan with tall sides or a wok, add 1 ½ inches oil and heat until 375 F. While the oil is heating, mix the flour, cornstarch and cornmeal. Coat the fish in the flour mixture and shake off any excess. When the oil has heated to 375 F, gently lower the fish into the oil and fry for 4-5 minutes. Carefully turn the fish over and place the butter and garlic in the slits of the fish. Begin spooning the hot oil on top of the butter and garlic until it has completely melted. Once the second side of the fish is crispy and golden brown, remove the fish and place it on paper towels to get rid of any excess oil.

Pickled Asparagus

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • ½ cup garlic cloves
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2.5 cups white wine vinegar
  • 1.5 cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp. kosher salt

Stand asparagus next to a quart size mason jar to determine the amount of stem that needs to be cut off. Trim off excess stem end and set aside. 

Wash asparagus under cold water and pat dry. Stand asparagus in jar and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a 2 quart pot and bring to a boil over medium heat stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Once pickling liquid comes to a boil, carefully pour into jar and let stand for 15 minutes prior to placing in refrigerator. Lid once completely cooled

Spiced Grapes

  • 2 lbs. red seedless grapes (washed and stems removed)
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1.5 cups red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 star anise
  • 5 allspice berries
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 charred cinnamon stick

Cut all grapes in half and put inside a large heat proof bowl. In a different pot, combine remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, carefully pour over grapes and place a small plate over the top to make sure all grapes remain submerged. Let stand 15 minutes before placing in refrigerator.

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