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Other Fish to Fry

by James O. Fraioli
Photo by Matthew Pietsch

There are many species of flounder that find their way to dinner tables across America. Soles, like Dover, English, and petrale, along with sand dabs, flukes, and plaice are also part of the flatfish family and often grouped into the “flounder” name. Here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, flounders thrive in our local waters and are quite plentiful. The most abundant is the starry flounder and Pacific sand dab. For those of you who appreciate a light, delicate fish with a mild, slightly sweet taste, you’ll enjoy this delicious flounder recipe from my cookbook: Sea Robins, Triggerfish & Other Overlooked Seafood, which I co-wrote with Chef Matthew Pietsch. The recipe is incredibly versatile as the quick application works wonders for just about any species of fish available. The dish also pairs well with a fresh green salad simply dressed with fresh-squeezed lemon and olive oil.


Serves 4

1 large carrot, peeled and ends trimmed

4 (6-ounce) flounder filets, cleaned and trimmed

2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

4 to 6-ounces clarified butter or neutral flavored oil (canola or grapeseed)

Kosher salt, as needed

Coarse flake or sea salt, as needed

¾ cup Brown Butter Sauce, divided, recipe follows

Sea-Cured Celery, as needed, for garnish, recipe follows

Jarred pearl onions, halved, as needed, for garnish

First, shave the carrot into long strips, using a mandolin or vegetable peeler. Place the carrot strips into a bath of ice water and chill for 10 to 15 minutes prior to serving. The carrot should curl into interesting curved shapes. Dry well before plating.

Towel dry the fish well prior to cooking. Place the flour in a large, shallow baking dish. Do not flour the fish until ready to cook.

Place a large sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat. Allow the pan to heat for 1 or 2 minutes. Add the clarified butter or oil to the pan and allow to heat for 30 to 60 seconds. Season the fish well with kosher salt, and dust immediately with the flour, being sure to remove any excess flour from the fish. Place the fish carefully into the hot pan. Once lightly golden brown, turn the fish using a fish spatula and finish cooking the other side. Remove the fish from the pan and sprinkle immediately with course flake salt.

Using a large spoon, place a few tablespoons of the Brown Butter Sauce onto the center of a plate and push the spoon across the plate, front to back, drawing the sauce across as you go. Place a flounder fillet over the sauce, just off center. Garnish the fish with some shaved carrot, Sea Cured Celery pieces, and pickled onions.

Brown Butter Sauce

Makes approx. ¾ to 1 cup

4 cups heavy cream     

1 lemon, juiced

Fine sea salt, as needed

In a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pot (3- or 4-quart), add the cream and bring to a boil. (Note: the cream will easily “boil over” if not attended to, so stir the cream and reduce the temperature slightly to keep the cream from spilling over the sides of the pot.) Continue to cook the cream at the highest manageable temperature, slowly reducing the moisture contained in the cream. As the cream thickens and reduces, decrease the heat to a simmer and continue to stir. The water content in the cream will continue to evaporate, and the remaining milk solids and butter fat will begin to thicken further, and then caramelize. Scrape the sides of the pot throughout, re-introducing the product to the cooking mass. Once the cream begins to take on a caramel tone, reduce the heat slightly and begin to stir frequently. (Note: The thicker the cream becomes, the more likely the mixture will stick to the bottom of the pan and scorch or burn, ruining the preparation, so don’t stop stirring.) Continue to cook the thickened mixture, stirring frequently and removing any particles that have become stuck to the pan, until deeply caramelized (a dark-brown golden hue). Once the cream has thoroughly expelled its water content and is deeply caramelized, remove from the heat. Add the lemon juice while whisking aggressively to re-emulsify the mixture, and season with salt. Serve immediately.

Sea-Cured Celery

4 celery stalks, trimmed

Olive oil, as needed

Fine sea salt, as needed

Cut the celery on a long bias to achieve a piece that is 1½ inches in length and ¼-inch thin. Add the celery to a small mixing bowl and coat well with olive oil. Season liberally with sea salt. Place in a sealed Ziploc bag, remove all the air, and tightly seal. Allow to sit at room temperature overnight. When ready to use, remove the celery from the bag, rinse, and pat dry.

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