Flounder fillets cooked to flaky perfection, rolled with an herbed breadcrumb stuffing, and set over a bed of baby spinach sauteed with garlic and capers. Easy to make, and featuring only simple ingredients, these stuffed flounder fillets make for a deliciously elegant weeknight dinner.
However, let’s start off with one truism – seafood can be intimidating to prepare. Full stop. For starters, seafood features an array of irregular textures, ranging from delicate and flaky (bass and cod) to oily and thick (swordfish and salmon) to firm or even rubbery (squid, octopus and certain shark varieties). Then tack on a truly vast array of flavor profiles that run the gamut from light and clean (haddock and fluke) to tasting like the saltwater it’s been fished from (sardines, herring, and mackerel), and one might be forgiven for asking “Where do you start?” and then once you’ve found a starting point, you might further ask “How do you get it right?”
The answer is to start with what you’re comfortable with, and branch out from there.
To that point, 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 combining great flavors with equally great visuals.
And, you guessed it, that’s where today’s Stuffed Flounder Fillets come in.
Below, I’ll be providing you with an ingredient checklist for each part of the recipe, and some key substitutions. After that, I’ll be offering up some prep and handling tips, before moving onto the recipe itself.
Now, without further delay, let’s get to it.
Ingredient Checklist – The Meat
- Six Flounder Filets. The ‘meat’ of today’s recipe. Can’t prepare flounder fillets without the flounder.
Ingredient Checklist – The Stuffing
- Italian-style Breadcrumbs. We’re using Italian-style breadcrumbs simply for the added depth of flavor. Notes below in substitutions if you don’t have them.
- Italian Parsley. Remember: Italian Parsley for cooking, Curley Leaf Parsley for garnish. Curly Leaf looks pretty but has no taste. Italian Parsley is plain and flat, but is delicious. Got it?
- Capers. These bring a ‘pleasant tanginess’ to a recipe, a flavor that’s variously described as ‘lemony,’ ‘anchovy-like,’ ‘salty,’ and ‘olive-like,’ or some combination thereof.
- Caper Juice.This simply helps bring more of that ‘briny goodness’ to the recipe.
- Celery. This adds body and moisture to the stuffing, as well as a nice ‘vegetal’ flavor.
- Garlic. Simply give the garlic a few chops before adding it in, but no need to fuss dicing it up fine.
- Lemon Juice. When it comes to fish, fresher is ‘definitely’ better, so opt for fresh lemon juice if you happen to have some lemons on hand. Bottled will work, but I do suggest fresh.
- Grating Cheese. Your preferred type of grating cheese is all we’re looking for here.
- Olive Oil. With fish, I do suggest a quality extra virgin olive oil.
- Paprika. Mild paprika is what we’re looking for here.
- Oregano. Unless specified otherwise, always a assume a recipe is asking for dried oregano. Today’s recipe is no exception.
Ingredient Checklist – The Sauteed Spinach
- Fresh baby Spinach. Baby spinach is simply the smallest variety of flat leaf spinach, and contains all of the same nutrient values as its larger cousins. While some frown on cooking baby spinach, the larger varieties, in my opinion, would simply overwhelm this recipe.
- Salt. Plain table salt is all you’re looking for. However, feel free to fancy things up with sea salt, or your gourmet salt of choice.
- Red Pepper. Purely for heat. Feel free to substitute in your favorite chili flakes if you prefer a bit more heat or a bit more ‘chili flavor.’
- Garlic. As before, simply give the garlic a few chops before adding it in.
- Walnuts. These add a nice bit of complexity to the stuffing, in my opinion, both in terms of taste and texture. See below for substitutions.
- The flounder. Dover sole is probably the best alternative, though you can likely use any mild white bodied fish.
- Walnuts. Pecans are my go-to substitute for walnuts, and visa versa. Pecans substitute at a one-to-one ratio. They feature a crisp and buttery texture, whereas walnuts are a bit ‘woodier’ in terms of flavor, which I find stands out more. Pine nuts would also work deliciously.
- Red Pepper. If all you want is the heat, about a quarter as much cayenne. Conversely, if you are interested more in ‘chili flavor,’ consider an equal amount of you preferred type of chili flakes. Consider a mix of cayenne, chili flakes, and chili powder – you’ll need to find your preferred ratio for this mix.
- Italian-Style Breadcrumbs. The recipe really does come together just fine if using plain. Simply add a little seasoning to taste to account for the difference.
- Do it yourself Italian-style Breadcrumbs. Making Italian-style breadcrumbs at home is incredibly simple. Just take half a cup of plain breadcrumbs, and then add in about a quarter teaspoon of black pepper, half a teaspoon salt, and a pinch each of red pepper flakes and dried oregano. Add in dried basil and dried parsley (about a quarter teaspoon of each), if you happen to have these on hand.
Prep and Handling Tips
- Avoiding Tough or Rubbery Flounder. While this issue can have a number of causes, the most common is overcooking. To avoid overcooking your fish, check your fish every ten or so minutes during cooking, to ensure that it isn’t already done cooking. Fish is done cooking when it reaches an internal temperature of 140-145 degrees Fahrenheit, and when it flakes easily from its thickest point.
- Avoiding Mushy Fish In reality, mushy fish comes from poor handling. The most common culprit here is improper defrosting. To properly defrost fish, ‘slow thaw’ it. That means let the frozen fish sit in the fridge to defrost overnight – or for about twelve hours.
- Storing Leftovers. Fish that is leftover should be stored immediately in the fridge in a sealed contained, and keeps for about three to four days.
More Seafood Favorites from Living the Gourmet
- Salmon en Papillote. A foolproof way to prepare moist and flavorful salmon. This recipe combines salmon in parchment with cherry tomatoes, onions, herbs, and green beans, along with a delicious vinaigrette.
- Beer Battered Fish and Chips. My twist on a beloved classic. This recipe combines fresh cod in a beer batter that cooks rich, dense, and decadently flavorful. Paired alongside fries and onion rings, this is comfort food that’s hard to top.
- Over Fried Calamari. Crisp, pleasantly firm, with a flavor that’s mild-yet-sweet with a just a hint of ‘saltwater brine,’ calamari is crowd pleaser like few others. Grab my recipe for it here.
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