Fabulous Flounder

Fried flounder. Photo by Keri White

I recently rediscovered the joys of flounder.

This fish is a blank canvas of delicate deliciousness, although it is often overlooked as bland or plain. Flounder cooks quickly and is extremely versatile.

The mild flavor makes it a good “entry-level” fish for kids and people reluctant to try seafood, but it can soar into levels of sophistication with the right preparation.

Last week, I bought two flounder fillets at the farmers market from the fisherman who comes in every Sunday from Barnegat Light with his fresh catch. As it happened, the fillets were quite large and, as a result, covered two nights’ worth of dinners.

In the past, I had been reluctant to save fish for more than a day, thinking that it would lose freshness and appeal, but having spoken to several reputable fishmongers, I learned that dabbing the fish with a paper towel to remove excess moisture and then wrapping it tightly with cellophane and sealing it in a bag or container in the fridge for a day or two (or the freezer for longer) is a great way to keep the fish if you can’t use it all on day one.

The recipes below span the spectrum of simple to sophisticated. The pan-fried flounder hearkens back to childhood, when this was standard fare at dinners out with my family. Breaded and crispy, it reminded me why I liked it so much as a kid and made me wonder why I haven’t made it in decades.

The second recipe delivers a more sophisticated flavor, integrating chopped capers and white wine into the dish, but it is not so outre that it won’t appeal to most people.

These recipes can be adapted to many different types of mild white fish — sole, tilapia, grouper, mahi mahi, fluke, et cetera. Just be mindful of the thickness and adjust the cooking times for thicker fish.

Pan-fried, Breaded Flounder
Serves 2

The dry-wet-dry method of breading is a little clunky and makes for additional dirty dishes, but you can’t beat the results. If the fillets are large and seem like they will be hard to coat and flip, just cut them in half for more manageable pieces.

2 flounder fillets, approximately 4 ounces each
2 tablespoons flour
Sprinkle of salt and pepper
1 egg
½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
¼ cup canola oil (approximately)
Lemons to serve

Set up 3 shallow bowls side by side. In the first, mix flour with salt and pepper. In the second, lightly beat the egg. In the third, place breadcrumbs.

Dry the fish with paper towels, and dredge it in the flour mixture, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs to coat thoroughly.

Heat the oil in a skillet; it should be about ⅛-inch deep — this is a “shallow fry” method. The oil is ready to cook when a breadcrumb dropped into the pan sizzles.

Carefully place the fillets in the pan and let them cook for about 2 minutes, then carefully flip. Cook the other side for another two minutes or so. The fish is done when both sides are crisp and golden brown and, when cut, is white and opaque throughout and flakes easily.

Place the fish on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the oil. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Flounder with Capers, Onions and Wine
Serves 2

I was looking for inspiration in my refrigerator on how to dress up the flounder for dinner. I stumbled upon a jar of jumbo capers, which I bought for a recipe and promptly forgot about.

Flounder with capers, onion and wine

The capers added some interest and flair and offered a good use of an ingredient that sat around for ages. If capers are not your thing, skip them or swap out another savory item in their place; try olives, artichokes or sundried tomatoes.

A note: Jumbo capers are milder in flavor, so if you use the little ones, reduce the amount as indicated below.

2 flounder fillets, approximately 4 ounces each
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup jumbo capers, coarsely chopped or 2 tablespoons small capers
¼ cup white wine or broth

Heat your oven to 275 degrees F. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the oil, and sauté the onion with the salt, pepper and capers until softened. Add the wine, bring it to a boil and then reduce it by half.

Remove the pan from the heat, spread the mixture to the edges and place the fillets in the pan. Spoon the onion mixture over the fish to coat, and place it in the oven. Bake the fish for 15 minutes or until it is opaque throughout and flakes easily. Serve immediately.


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