Blackened Rockfish, California Risotto

Blackened Rockfish, Lima Bean RisottoBlackened Rockfish, California Risotto

I have been a supporter of the James Beard Fellows Program which assists in the training and professional development for talented emerging chefs.

Each Fellow has a ten-week residency at the James Beard House in New York City where they receive hard skills training along with the opportunity to develop a meal kit that is available across the country.

This month, Philly native Chef Tonii Hicks developed a delicious-sounding menu of Sweet Potato Croquettes with Green Curry Sauce, Blackened Cod with Lima Bean Risotto, and Apple Butter Sticky Buns.

The meal kit can be ordered here now through September 13, 2022. The monthly Beard Box meal kit for two is shipped overnight. This month’s box will arrive on September 28, 2022. The portions are generous, and it is a delight to experience the emerging chefs’ creativity while supporting the James Beard Foundation.

Unfortunately, due to timing, I won’t be able to purchase the Beard Box this month. But that Blackened Cod with Lima Bean Risotto sounded just too awesome. So… I had to try my version of it right away with my Rockfish on hand. And it was fabulous. It was a harmony of beautiful colors, various textures, bold bright flavors. Thank you and brava, Chef Tonii! I am sure your Beard Box will be a huge success!

Blackened Rockfish, California Risotto Recipes

Blackened Rockfish, Lima Bean Risotto

California Risotto

This is a California risotto, made with California rice and frozen baby lima beans.

Calrose is a medium grain rice variety, notable for being the founding variety of the California rice industry. Calrose rice grains hold flavor well, and are soft and stick together, making it good for use as a common table rice, as sushi rice, and even for risotto as well.

Pale-green, plump Baby Lima Beans are fresh-frozen, tender and creamy. Their color, texture, and nutty-sweet flavor make them a jaunty addition to risotto.


  • 3 1/2 c. light chicken broth (or more as needed)
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1/2 c. shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 c. calrose rice
  • 1/3 c. dry white wine
  • 1/3 c. grated parmesan, plus more for serving
  • chopped cilantro
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 8 0z. frozen baby lima beans – cooked, seasoned with butter, salt and pepper


Simmer chicken broth in a pot on the stovetop. In another heavy-bottomed medium sauce pot, heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add shallot and cook until it becomes a very light golden color. Add rice and stir to coat all the grains. Add wine and cook until evaporated. Then turn down the heat and add the broth, one cup at a time, frequently stirring as the rice absorbs the liquid, about 20 minutes.

When the risotto is the correct creamy consistency and the grains are tender but not mushy, remove from heat. Add parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Fold in lima beans. Meanwhile cook the rockfish.

How to make Blackened Rockfish


Rockfish are a wonderful clean-tasting fish with a firm texture and nice flakes when cooked. This fish stands up to many methods of cooking, and is especially great blackened-style.

Over 70 members of the rockfish family populate the Pacific Ocean from Alaska to Mexico. Pacific rockfish are sustainable and affordable at around $10 per pound compared to halibut at over $25 per pound!

  • 1 lb. rockfish fillets (wild, boneless, skinless)
  • olive oil
  • butter

Blackened Spices:

  • 1 T. sweet paprika
  • 2 t. onion powder
  • 2 t. garlic powder
  • 2 t. cayenne (or to taste)
  • 1 t. brown sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 t. each dried basil, oregano, thyme
  • 1 t. salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 t. black pepper


Mix spices together in a shallow bowl.

Rinse rockfish fillets. Let come to room temperature. Dry with paper towels. Coat fish with spice rub on all sides, pressing spice mix into the flesh.

Heat equal amounts of butter and olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. When butter is melted and hot, add fish. Adjust heat to medium and sauté fish for about 3 to 4 minutes per side until starting to blacken in spots and the fish is just cooked through.

Blackened Rockfish, Lima Bean Risotto

To Plate:

If necessary, just before plating, add another quarter to half cup of hot broth to risotto to get the perfect creamy consistency.

Spoon risotto onto the center of plates. Sprinkle with grated parmesan and chopped cilantro. Place blackened rockfish fillets on top of risotto. Pour pan juices over the fish. Finish with a cilantro sprig.


My dish was inspired by Chef Tonii Hicks’ great menu idea of “Blackened Cod with Lima Bean Risotto.” The recipe published here is my own.

This Blackened Rockfish is not the same as the famous Blackened Redfish by Paul Prudhomme. It is a different fish. The spice mix is similar, but the chef’s fish is cooked in all butter in a screaming-hot cast iron pan. Here, the fish is cooked over medium heat in a non-stick skillet. Much less mess and smoke. Still very tasty.

I noticed a few recipes online that added sugar to the spice mix. While not traditional, I tried it and thought it added another dimension of flavor and helped with caramelization. (I usually don’t like to add sugar or sweeteners to my savory recipes).

Take a Look at These Fabulous Prior Beard Box Dinners

Chef Theodore Coleman here

Chef Theodore Coleman

Featuring a Grilled Peach with Smoked Paneer Salad with Spiced Watermelon Vinaigrette; Berbere-Spiced Lamb Loin with Preserved Lemon Couscous, Moroccan Mint Yogurt; Dark Chocolate Bon Bon with Grilled Corn and Salted Caramel Ganache

Chef Kencito Vernon here

Chef Kencito Vernon

Featuring Jerk Shrimp with Pico de Gallo, Avocado Crema; Scotch Bonnet-Braised Beef Short Rib with Fall Greens and Polenta; Peanut-Coconut Brittle Drops with Oloroso Sherry

Chef Nashali Rivera here

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Featuring Salted Cod Fish Fritters with Spicy Aïoli; Roasted Pork Shoulder and Crispy Chicharrones with Pickled Green Banana Salad; Pumpkin Flan with Pumpkin Seed Brittle

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