Eric Donnelly, chef/owner of RockCreek Seafood & Spirits and FlintCreek Cattle Co., is a big fan; here’s his recipe for Rockfish Provencale and all the fixin’s.

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ROCKFISH IS APPEARING on Seattle-area menus in everything from ceviche to tacos. But new it is not. This lean, mild fish is nothing short of the best ecological comeback story on the West Coast in the past 50 years.

That’s according to Tyson Yeck, the sales director for North America at Pacific Seafood, one of the region’s largest seafood suppliers.

Although abundant today, rockfish was nearly wiped out in the last half of the 20th century, Yeck says. In 2000, parts of the Pacific Ocean fishery were declared a federal disaster due to overfishing. After years of conservation measures, natural rockfish stocks have recovered.

Today, U.S.-sourced rockfish species are all “best choices” or “good alternatives” on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. And several species are certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

“People didn’t know about rockfish a couple of years ago,” Yeck says. “But now people are excited about it. It’s wild, local, versatile and affordable.”

What more could you want?

Eric Donnelly, chef/owner of RockCreek Seafood & Spirits and FlintCreek Cattle Co., is also a fan. He focuses on interesting fish like rockfish that is bycatch from Neah Bay.

“If there’s a black cod fishery that ends up with 50 pounds of canary rockfish, we try to showcase it,” he explains. He actively seeks out rockfish because it’s local, fresh and delicious. Yelloweye rockfish, in particular, Donnelly considers “one of the best things that swims in the ocean.”

Welcome back.

Rockfish Provencale

Serves 4

Before you cook the fish, make the braised artichokes and fennel, vinaigrette and herb salad.

Lemon braised artichokes and fennel

1 cup white wine

3 cups water

2 bay leaves

1 lemon, halved

2 cloves garlic, peeled

6 sprigs of thyme

1 tablespoon kosher salt

4 baby fennel bulbs, halved, stalks removed

8 baby artichokes, peeled, halved, fuzzy insides removed with a paring knife

1. In a stainless-steel pot, combine the wine, water, bay leaves, lemon, garlic, thyme and salt. Add fennel and artichoke, and bring to a slow simmer for about 12 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

2. Remove from heat, and chill the pot immediately over an ice bath. Store artichokes and fennel in the liquid in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Baby tomato vinaigrette

1 cup red cherry tomatoes

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar

½ teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1. In a blender, combine the tomatoes, salt, vinegar and paprika. Purée until the tomatoes are completely broken down. Drizzle in the olive oil.

2. Pass the vinaigrette through a chinois or strainer. Keep at room temperature.

Salad for garnish

1 cup celery leaves

¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

¼ cup tarragon leaves

½ cup oil-cured black olives, cut in half

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (preferably Sungold)

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

1. In a bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients.

2. Toss with a dash of olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Fish

4 rockfish fillets, about 6 ounces each, preferably longline-caught from Neah Bay

Kosher salt

Extra virgin olive oil

1. Thoroughly dry the fish with paper towels, and season with salt.

2. Starting on high heat, then turning temperature down to medium, sear fillets in a saute pan with olive oil. Sear fillets on both sides until cooked, about 6 to 8 minutes.

3. Strain artichokes and fennel, and add to the pan to warm through.

4. Spoon a small amount of tomato vinaigrette on each plate, place a fillet in the center, then divide the fennel and artichokes evenly. Garnish with the tomato, herb and olive salad.

Note: Most rockfish fillets are sold skinless locally, but if you can find skin-on, scaled fillets, use those.

Eric Donnelly