The Urban Chesapeake Waterman

This post was originally posted on John's previous blog site on on February 12th, 2013.

When we look at that beautiful piece of pan-seared rockfish on our plates, or sit down to a plateful of shucked Chesapeake oysters freshly harvested from the Bay it conjures images of sleepy little eastern shore-waterside towns, with picturesque docks and ancient skipjack work boats. But that is not necessarily the case. A large share of our local commercial watermen actually live and work out of urban areas in Maryland and Virginia.


One such waterman that I met recently is Captain Don Marani from Fells Point in Baltimore, on Henderson’s Wharf marina. He has two work boats docked at the primarily pleasure boat based marina, and has used this location as the base of his fishing operations for 13 years. The bulk of his commercial fishing catch and farmers market sales take place during the winter months. Come June, he operates Baltimore Fishing Adventures, on his 46-foot, bay-built, Lady Luck. The boat can be booked for either charter fishing all around the bay, or for Inner Harbor sight seeing trips.


Recognizing the popularity of the farm to table movement Don decided to do his own “Bay to Table” model. Due to the the lack of quality seafood markets in the Baltimore region, he customized a van into a first-class fish monger stall on wheels. For the past two and a half years, Don has operated his mobile fish market, Fish On Wheels, at the Waverly 32nd Street Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.


Captain Don’s Rockfish Parmesan Captain Don says that he got his love of working the water from his grandfather. Growing up in Parkville, Maryland he hails from an Italian family who loves good food and know how to cook. When I asked Don for his favorite seafood recipe he did not even hesitate. He believes in keeping his seafood recipes simple, so that the delicate flavor of the rockfish is not overpowered.

Serves 2 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning 1/4 tsp oregano Freshly ground black pepper 2 (six oz) rockfish filets 4 tbsp mayo 4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese 1 tsp chopped parsley or chives Lemon for garnish Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix together the olive oil, Old Bay, oregano, and a little ground black pepper. Place the rockfish fillets into a zip-lock bag and pour in the olive oil mixture to marinate. Place in the refrigerator for between 20 to 30 minutes before cooking. Place the fish fillets onto a baking tray, or baking dish. In a bowl, mix together the mayo, cheese and parsley. Spread the mixture on top of the fillets (flesh side up) and place in the oven. Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes, or until the fish is flaky, just done, but not dry. Serve immediately. And a little p.s.

Another local Bay to Table operation is Conrad’s Crabs in Baltimore County. For my money, it is one of the area’s best seafood markets. Anthony Conrad left his job in the business world to fulfill his lifelong dream of being a waterman and in 2007 opened his market. Don’t let the name fool you. Yes, they do have some of the best crabs to be found, but it is also a terrific old-fashioned Chesapeake seafood market. Until next time, live & eat local…bon appetite!


- John

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