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COOK'S GUIDE

Flatfish Recipes

by Louis Bignami

Given the number of gigs around the Gulf and the copious numbers of flounders from hand-size up to big ones the size of a barrelhead, you've got a wonderful set of options when you consider that sole can be deep or shallow fried, grilled, poached, braised, served in parchment paper or rolled in turbans around a filling.

Cleaning isn't tough. You can cut out the fins on both sides of the fish and remove the skin. These, or any parts left over from filleting a flounder make the finest fish stock going -- see below.

CAUTION: It's easy, even usual to overcook flat fish. In a pan you should flip them to cook the other side the instant that they turn from translucent to opaque. Otherwise the usual, 10 minutes per inch of thickness rule may be a minute or two per side. It's also easy to end up with cold fish if you don't serve them on heated plates.

GRILLED FLOUNDER OR SOLE
1 pound sole or flounder fillets
1 pat of butter, melted
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon wedges and parsley for garnish.

Arrange fillets on a lightly greased broiling pan. Note: frugal folks save butter wrappers in the fridge for this. Brush fillets with melted butter and salt and pepper.

Grill two to five minutes a side. Serve garnished with lemon and parsley.

OLIVE SOLE OR FLOUNDER
You can use green, black, Italian or Greek olives in this dandy dish. We favor stuffed green olives or, best of all, olives stuffed with almonds.
4 fillets
salt and pepper
juice of one lemon
8 olives
Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 pint milk
8 to 12 olives
Salt and pepper

Set oven to 350 degrees. Rinse and dry fillets and sprinkle with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Roll each fillet up with a couple of olives inside -- big fillets might need more olives end to end in the roll. Pull rolls into a shallow buttered baking dish. Dot with butter and cover with buttered foil. Bake until tender 12-15 minutes.

While fish bakes melt butter and stir in flour over mild heat. Add a small amount of the liquid from the baking fish. Then gradually add milk, raise heat and stir until it boils. Reduce heat to a simmer, add olives and salt and pepper.

Top fillet rolls with sauce.

VARIATIONS: you can use your favorite seafood sauce, stuff the rolls with chopped shrimp, oysters or butter-cooked minced mushrooms. Left over bits and pieces of cooked seafood make excellent stuffing.

ORANGE FLOUNDER
2 pounds of fish fillets
salt and pepper
juice of four oranges.

Set oven to 350 degrees. Roll the fillets, arrange in a dish just big enough so fish are tightly packed, pour on the orange juice. Cover with greased foil and bake.

This simple dish works with pink grapefruit too. Then, if you want to get fancy, you can thicken the juices with a bit of arrowroot or some flour butter mix (roux) or add oddments such as almonds or pecans.

NUT FLOUNDER
2 pounds of fillets
one egg, beaten
1 cup pecans or almonds or walnuts or macadamia nuts, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of butter, at least.
Salt and pepper.

Roll fish in nuts instead of flour and you can't overcook as nuts burn fast.

Pat fish very dry. Melt butter in a frying pan. Flip fish in beaten egg and then into nuts. You may have to repeat this, and place them in the pan. By the time you load all the fish the first will be ready to turn. Pat on any extra nuts. Serve these with parsley potatoes and a nice salad.

FLOUNDER BOATS
This odd recipe is a favorite with kids who can, with minimal help, make it ahead. It's also an excellent way to stretch leftovers off all types. The only hard thing to do is to find two inch thick slices of bread to make the "boats." If you can't do this, try sourdough or other hard crust rolls.
Innards:
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flout
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon salt, or less -- we use less
pepper to taste
1 green pepper cut in 1./4 inch strips or, half red and half green.
1//2 cup of cooked mushrooms
parsley.
Boats
Thick slices of day old bread
melted butter
grated cheese

Innards: Melt butter, stir in flour and cook over low heat for two or three minutes. Remove from the heat. Add milk. Return to heat and stir until the mix boils. Add other filling ingredients and warm.

Boats: heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut a inch deep cavity into the two inch bread slides; or hollow out half rolls. Save the bread to dry for breadcrumbs. Brush "boats" with butter and add a bit of grated cheese -- we like Monterey jack or Muenster best. Brown in the oven.

Note: Everything up to browning boats in the oven can be done ahead of time. Then it's heat, dish the innards into the boats and serve. We like this for light lunches and leftovers turn up at breakfast.

SKATES, RAYS & SUCH
No bones here, just cartilage. Some folks used to file the insides of pipes sharp and punch out "scallops" from ray or skate rings. The better way is to cut off the wings flush with the body. Then cut them into inch wide strips. In cross-section you'll see cartilage in the middle, skin on both sides and meat in between. With a sharp fillet knife you can easily cut the meat out by running your knife blade against the skin and cartilage alternately. Then cook these as strips or cut them into "cubical scallops" and use your favorite cooked scallop recipe.

Here's our favorite simple and delicious "scallop" recipe: do realize that skate and ray meat improves a bit if kept in the fridge for 24 hours. You might go 48 hours with a really big fish that tend to be tougher.

SKATE OR RAY NOISETTE
2 pounds skate wings, in pieces
Fish stock or Court Bouillon to cover*
2 ounces of capers
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 stick of butter.
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Poach your skate or ray wings in stock at a mild simmer. Cool, drain and pat dry.
Heat butter and vinegar in a pot until it turns-nut brown. If you burn it you can always claim you're doing "blackened skate.
Arrange skate in a heated serving dish. Add salt, pepper and capers. Pour on the butter and serve.
Plain boiled potatoes are ideal as a side dish.

COOKING TIP: We boil fish trimmings and bones, any lame vegetables, a bouquet garni black pepper and a couple of strips of lemon peels into stock. Then reduce this by 70 percent, strain, cool and freeze in ice cube trays. Pop loose the cubes and hold until needed in the freezer. Our trays run four cubes to the cup; melt some cubes and measure yours. This works for meat, game and bird stocks too. Apparently complex European recipes do become simple with pre-made stock!

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