Pan-Roasted Whole Flounder or Fluke with Brown Butter, Lemon, and Capers
If you or a friend catch a few nice medium-sized flounder or fluke, you owe it to yourself to cook some on the bone—it is by far the best way to experience the full flavor and juiciness of the fish. This is a special dish, beautiful to behold and perfect for a quiet dinner for two. The only problem is that you can only cook one fish in each pan. you could cook one fish and serve it as a first course for two people. Or, if you have two suitable pans, you can cook two fish at the same time and make a starter for 4 or a main dish for 2. If you decide on the latter, serve it with boiled new potatoes and a green vegetable or salad.
The hardest part of this recipe is skinning the whole flounder, so if you didn’t catch your own, ask your fish market to do it for you.
Serves2 as a fish course or 1 as a main course
Total Timeunder 30 minutes
OccasionCooking for a date
Recipe Courseappetizer, main course
Dietary Considerationappetizer, main course
Taste and Texturebuttery, herby, juicy, light, savory, tangy
- One 1- to 1 ½ pound whole fluke or flounder, preferably skinned by the fish market
- ¾ cup all purpose flour
- Kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 12-inch well-seasoned cast-iron skillet
- 8-inch skillet
- A long metal spatula
If necessary, skin the fish: Start by cutting off the head. Then make a little V-cut at the tail in order to loosen the skin enough to get a firm grip on it. peel the skin back far enough to get your thumb under the loose skin. To prevent slipping, hold a towel in your hand as you grip the skin. In one strong, swift motion, pull the skin away from the tail—it should come off in one piece. Flip the fish over and remove the skin from the other side. Then trim the small bones away from the sides of the fish, and remove the roe sac (if any) and any viscera from the cavity. If necessary, cut off the tail of the fish so that it will fit into your pan. Rinse and dry the fish. Keep refrigerated until you are ready to cook.
Adjust a rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.
Place a 12-inch well-seasoned skillet over high heat and heat for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, spread the flour in a large shallow bowl or a baking dish. Sprinkle the fish generously with salt and pepper and dredge it in the flour, turning it well to coat; shake gently to remove the excess.
Add the oil to the hot skillet. Lower the fish into the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-high (at this point, you should start cooking the butter; see step 5). Brown the fish on one side without turning, about 4 minutes. Turn the fish and immediately place the skillet in the oven. Roast until the fish is pure white and firm to the touch, about 8 minutes. Transfer the fish to a platter and keep warm.
Meanwhile, as soon as the fish goes into the pan, place the butter in an 8-inch skillet and melt it over medium-low heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook the butter gently until it browns—keep an eye on it, but let it cook undisturbed until it is nutty brown. This will take about 8 minutes (about the same time it takes to cook the fish). When the butter is nutty brown, remove the skillet from the heat and immediately add the lemon juice, capers, parsley and a pinch of salt. pour the still-foaming butter into a sauceboat or serving bowl and spoon just a bit over the fish.
Present the fish at the table and allow a minute for your guest to admire it. To fillet the fish, hold an ordinary tablespoon upside down the center of the fish, near the head, and loosen the top fillet, pushing out from the center of the fish. The bones on a flounder are very strong and won’t pull away with the meat. You should have no problem removing the two fillets on the top side. Transfer them to a dinner plate. Flip the fish over and repeat with the two remaining fillets. Spoon the brown butter over the fish and enjoy this special treat, noticing how much more flavorful fish is when cooked on the bone.
2007 Jasper White