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Ocean perch is a subtle and lovely fish, not to be confused with lake perch that is common in freshwater area fish fries. This is a fish that is native to both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is a type of rockfish that favors the rocky ocean bottoms. Perch eat a varied diet that includes small sweet crustaceans and krill. They can grow up to 20 inches long but tend to be smaller. The edible skin is commonly red or orange in color with some green spots. Ocean perch is generally wild-caught rather than farmed.
The firm flesh of ocean perch is white and mild in flavor. I like the tender sweet meat that is a blank canvas for all variety of seasonings. The skin crisps up beautifully. While I have fished for and caught perch, I have only seen it already filleted in my local markets. Don’t be afraid to ask your fishmonger how fresh the fish is and if you can smell it. The flesh should have a mild and clean ocean scent, not a fishy smell.
Ocean perch is not a particularly fatty fish, despite being abundant in colder northern waters. Despite the lack of fat, the flesh is very moist when cooked properly. Perch is a great source of vitamin B-12 and is only about 120 calories per 4-ounce fillet.
I think I have probably sung the praises of ocean perch enough, so let’s get to a simple recipe and some variations for preparing this tasty seafood. I enjoy serving fresh baked fish with simply prepared fresh vegetables, garlic bread, and a dry sauvignon blanc.
Notes & Tips
- This recipe is best prepared with fresh ocean perch. Make sure to have your fishmonger let you smell the freshness of the fillets. If they smell fishy, they are not fresh. They should smell faintly of the ocean. Make sure the fillets have been cleaned of scales.
- If you can only get frozen ocean perch, allow it to thaw out in the refrigerator overnight.
- Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fillets, so check them starting at 12 minutes.
Substitutions & Variations
Ocean Perch: I don’t often see ocean perch in the display case of the fish counter, despite this being an abundant seafood. There are other great fish that you can use in place of perch. These include rockfish, Atlantic pollack, cod, flounder, and weakfish.
Fresh Garlic: The other day, I needed fresh garlic for a recipe and I didn’t have any, which is unusual. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you can use olive oil that is infused with garlic, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, minced fresh chives or shallots, or asafetida powder. One thing I don’t often recommend is jarred minced garlic. I know many keep this in their refrigerators for convenience, but I have found that it doesn’t keep well and the oil can become rancid.
Paprika: Another thing I sometimes run out of is paprika. When that happens, I will use a little chili powder, annatto powder, or even turmeric. If you want some heat, try creole seasoning. In the end, you can omit the paprika in this recipe.
Scallions: The green tops of the scallions impart only a hint of spring onion flavor. I like them mostly because of their color. You can use fresh chives, parsley, or cilantro if you don’t have green onions.
Side Dishes to Serve with Baked Ocean Perch
Fish fillets are a weekly staple in my home. We generally have one dinner each week which is fish with vegetables and some form of starch to round out the meal. When shopping for my seafood dinner, I first look for what is fresh and wild-caught. Once I choose my protein, I head to the produce aisle to also see what is fresh.
My local supermarket has one small display of organic produce. That is disappointing, but I just head there and see what looks best. There is always broccoli, zucchini, and spinach. Seasonally, there is asparagus and fava beans – what a treat. Later in the season, my farmer’s market opens up for 4 months and the selection is excellent.
The farmer’s market also has a fish vendor who catches his bounty off his boat after midnight on market day. He then cleans the fish, and portions it into fillets. This vendor always has ocean perch. As soon as I buy the fish, I go right over to the best veggie stall at the market. Her options change every week.
With perch, I really enjoy simply steamed asparagus or sauteed fresh green peas in spring. For the rest of the year, wilted spinach with shitake mushrooms is a great option. For the starchy component, I’ll make a lemon asparagus couscous salad or roasted garlic bread.
A good dry white wine is terrific with mild white fish. If you want a non-alcoholic option, try a refreshing mojito mocktail.
- 4 3 to 4-ounce skin-on fresh ocean perch fillets
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic minced
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- ½ tsp sea salt less if desired
- Green tops of 3 scallions sliced thinly
- 8 thin slices of lemon
- 4 lemon wedges for serving
- All ingredients ready? Let's begin!
- Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil.
- In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, garlic, paprika, and salt.
- Pat the fish fillets dry with paper towels.
- Gently rub each fillet all over with the seasoned oil. Place the fillets, skin side down, on the lined baking sheet. Top each fillet with green onion slices.
- Place 2 slices of fresh lemon on top of each fillet.
- Place the pan inside the oven and bake the perch until the internal temperature reaches 145°F when checked with a digital thermometer, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
- Serve the cooked perch immediately with lemon wedges on the side.