Rolled with an herbed breadcrumb stuffing, these Flounder filets make for an easy yet elegant weeknight dinner.
Roasted meat drenched in its own herbed juices, steak seared with rosemary and butter, or burgers grilled to juicy perfection, these sorts of dishes comfort the soul while reaching back in our genetic consciousness to earlier, primal times. As a bonus, they’re also sublimely simple to make.
By contrast, seafood, with its array of irregular textures, ranging from delicate and flaky (think bass and cod) to oily and thick (think swordfish and salmon) to firm or even rubbery (squid, octopus and certain shark varieties), can be somewhat more intimidating. Combined with a truly vast array of flavor profiles that run gamut from light and clean (haddock and fluke) to tasting like the saltwater it’s been fished from (sardines, herring, and mackerel), it’s plainly obvious why the most common questions when it comes to seafood is “Where do you start?” and “How do you get it right?”
You start where you’re comfortable, and you get it right with patience and practice.
Now, when it comes to patience and practice, I believe that every at-home chef or aspiring dinner-party virtuoso should have at least one ‘really’ good fish recipe in their repertoire. I’m talking about the kind of fish recipe that’s not only delicious, and therefore impresses the palate, but that also ‘looks’ excellent, thereby combing great flavors with equally great visuals.
For me, when I’m having guests over and I want to impress with a seafood dish, one of my favorites is Stuffed Filet of Flounder, which we’re pairing with sautéed spinach.
To prepare the stuffing itself, we begin by heating a large cast iron frying pan with two tablespoons of olive oil, and then add in chopped parsley, chopped garlic, and finely chopped celery. Heat that in the oil for a minute or two, tossing constantly throughout. Then add in a tablespoon each of capers and caper juice, and then toss again. Finally, add in one and a quarter cup of breadcrumbs, the juice of half a medium sized lemon, drizzle the mixture with olive oil, and toss.
Now, for the filet of flounder, we’re going to begin with a rack and set that in a backing pan. If you don’t have a baking rack, that’s fine, just be sure to coat the bottom of the pan, thoroughly, with olive oil. Now, plate the flounder filets on a flat surface, spread a thin layer of the stuffing over the top of the filets, and then carefully roll the filets, and secure them shut with a toothpick or two. You need to be very gentle during this process as the fish has a tendency to fall apart. As you finish rolling the filets, set them on the rack in the baking pan. Once the filets are rolled, sprinkle them with a light dusting paprika and dried oregano, a little of the left over stuffing and a drizzle of olive oil, and then bake for about 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Chef’s Note: When cooking fish, be aware that fish continues cooking after it’s been removed from the oven. The lighter and flakier the fish, the truer this statement becomes. To check to see if fish is done, an old tip is to insert a thin knife into the thickest part of your fish, and then ever so gently tilt the knife to an angle. You’re looking for the fish to flake readily, and for the juices to be translucent.
Pairing Tips: If you’re looking to pair this recipe with a wine, a good cava would pair excellently. Cava also has the added bonus of a bubbly flair to your evening. Greek white wines also work excellently with a meal like this, such as a decent Assyrtiko or a Malagousia. For something a bit more ‘familiar,’ a decent sauvignon blanc or an unoaked chardonnay would also pair excellently.
For the sautéed spinach, we heat a large cast iron frying pan with two tablespoons of olive oil, and then add in about three quarters of a cup of chopped walnuts, a dash of sea salt and toss them about in the pan for a minute or so. Remove them from the pan, and set them aside. Now, add in another two tablespoons of olive, and four cloves of chopped crushed garlic, and toss that for a minute or two until the garlic becomes fragrant. Be careful not to burn the garlic. You want the garlic ever so slightly golden on the edges, nothing more. If the garlic browns more than that, it’s burnt.
Now, add in the spinach with a dash of sea salt and about a quarter teaspoon of red pepper flakes (or more if you prefer a touch more heat), and toss until the spinach becomes wilted. Again, do not overcook. Now, add in the walnuts, then toss, and remove the entire mix from the pan with a slotted spoon, allowing any moisture to drain away.
Serve this alongside the fish, and you’re done.
Enjoy with Love!