The Oregon Grille modernizes a classic spring dish


When The Oregon Grille opened in 1997, there was a dish on the menu that was oh-so Maryland … and oh-so 1997.

The entrée was a sautéed rockfish with a crab hash and Delmarva salsa. It had all the ingredients that diners love — fresh fish, a farm-stand salsa of local produce and, of course, crab meat. But it also had potatoes, and by today’s eating standards, it needed to be lightened up, says Jason Openhym, who was the sous chef when the restaurant opened. Openhym stayed in that role until 2007, cooked for other restaurants, and then returned to The Oregon Grille last year, assuming the role of executive chef.

Updating the rockfish entrée — and honoring its legacy — has been incredibly gratifying, he says. Carolina gold rice, is a long-grain rice sourced from Carolina Plantation Rice in Darlington, South Carolina replaces the potatoes. This new addition is “sweet and popcorn-y,” he adds.

“Smell it,” he holds out a pan of the rice as he prepares the dish. “It’s almost like basmati.”

He artfully smears a corn puree onto a plate and then adds the rice, which has lump crab meat, and charred baby zucchini. Then there is the rockfish, which is seared and topped with cucumbers and tomatoes.

“This has all the flavors of the original dish,” Openhym says. “It’s the evolution of that entrée.”

Cooking with fresh, local ingredients like this “sounds cliché” in today’s world of locally sourced everything, he admits. But he and his staff were so pleased with this iteration of the dish that they took a picture of it and sent it to Mark Henry, the chef who created the original entree for The Oregon Grille.

Working restaurants offer a “daily sense of accomplishment,” Openhym admits. But equally rewarding was the response they received from Henry about the makeover: He said it was beautiful.

Rockfish with Cucumber and Tomato Salad
Serves 2

Corn Puree
Make ahead of time. Take 2 cups of corn from the cobs of 3 ears. Then scrape the cobs to get the milk. Mix with 2 cups of cream and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain the corn and reserve the liquid. Put the corn in a food processor and add ¼ cup of the liquid. Add more if needed to make a puree. Strain through a mesh strainer until smooth. Season with sea salt.

Cook according to package instructions. For two diners, cook 1 cup of rice, or ½ cup of rice per plate. Add 4 ounces of jumbo lump crab meat, 2 tablespoons of cream and a dash of salt.

Half 4 mini zucchini. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan and then blister each side of the zucchini just long enough for it to char but remain firm. Salt and pepper.

Cucumber and Tomato Salad
Quarter and thinly slice 1 pound of heirloom tomatoes.

Half and then thinly slice 2 Persian cucumbers or 1 small English cucumber.

Cut ¼ of a Vidalia onion into Julienned slices. Mix the vegetables with the juice of 1 lemon, a pinch of Old Bay seasoning and 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil.

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