Gordon has been sea fishing and cooking since childhood. He loves coming up with tasty ways of cooking his fresh catch when he gets home.
Flounder is a type of flatfish, found in the form of several different sub-species around the world. They are not always a popular eating fish and this is for a number of reasons. They don't look particularly meaty and they are frequently perceived as being difficult to clean or fillet. The truth is, however, that the lovely white flesh of a flounder can be extremely delicious to eat, provided it is prepared and cooked in an appropriate fashion. This page will show both how to fillet a flounder and how to simply gut and clean it for cooking whole. In each instance, a tasty recipe will be provided which is easy to prepare at home.
How to Fillet a Flounder
Filleting a flounder or other type of flat fish is a very different proposition from filleting a round fish such as a mackerel or cod. The bone structure means that there are four fillets on the fish—two on the top and two on the bottom. Unfortunately, it is often only practical to fillet the very largest of flounder as the size of particularly the two smallest fillets doesn't make the effort worthwhile. The flounder which was filleted below was borderline but the procedure is the same regardless of the size of the fish. Remember that just like when filleting any type of fish, a proper filleting knife is essential if the job is to be done properly. This fact is probably even more important when filleting flat fish than when filleting round fish.
- Lay the flounder on a chopping board, top/mottled side uppermost. With your filleting knife, make a deep cut all the way around the head.
- Make a nick across the top of the tail, all the way through tho the bone. Starting at the tail, make a cut from the nick you have made along one side of the backbone, all the way up to the head. Keep the knife flush against the backbone.
- When filleting fish, move the knife in one direction only. Begin carefully slitting the knife through the flesh, cutting out from the backbone and always being guided by the bones, until you can remove the first fillet. Do exactly the same with the second top fillet.
- Turn the fish over that the white belly side is exposed. Simply follow exactly the same procedures as you did with the other side of the flounder.
- When you have removed all the fillets, you may wish to wash all the blood and guts from the head and skeleton and use it to make fish stock.
How to Skin a Flounder Fillet
When you have your flounder fillets, it is likely you will still want to skin them before they are cooked. This is a very easy process and is exactly the same as skinning a fish like cod or haddock.
- Lay the fillet on your chopping board, the narrow end at your weaker side.
- Pinch the narrow tip of the fillet with your weaker hand and—with the blade of the knife angled away from your hand—make a slit in to the flesh to the skin but do not go through the skin.
- Slide the knife backwards and forwards over the skin—at right angles to the fillet—and pull gently but firmly on the skin end with your weaker hand.
- The skin should easily and cleanly come free.
Pan Fried Flounder Fillets With New Potatoes and Peas
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
- 6 baby new potatoes, or as required
- Butter, some for potatoes and some for frying flounder
- Pinch of chopped chives
- 1 tbsp plain/all purpose flour
- Salt and pepper
- Skinned fillets from one flounder
- 2 tbsp frozen peas, or as required
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- Put the potatoes in to a pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer for thirty minutes.
- Drain the potatoes and return them to the empty pot. Let them steam for two or three minutes before adding a little butter and the chives. Swirl to combine.
- Add the peas to a pot of boiling water to simmer for three minutes.
- Scatter the flour on a plate and season. Start a little bit of butter melting in a small, non-stick frying pan until it reaches a medium to high heat.
- Pat the flounder fillets in the flour on both sides. Gently shake to remove excess before laying in the pan. Fry on a medium heat for one minute each side.
- Lift the flounder fillets to a serving plate. Drain the peas and add along with the potatoes.
How to Gut and Clean a Whole Flounder for Cooking
Flounder is like any other fish in that it is subject to certain size limits, depending upon where and how it is caught. Just because a fish is a "keeper", however, doesn't mean that it is suitable for filleting. This is particularly true with flat fish like flounder. If you do catch a flounder that is on the smaller side, therefore, you may wish to consider this cleaning method rather than trying to fillet it.
- Lay the flounder belly side down and darker/mottled side up on a chopping board.
- Cut around the head, all the way through. Remove and discard.
- The belly cavity is just below the head. Insert your knife in to the cavity and make a small cut down the way to open it up a little bit more. Use your fingers to pull out and remove the guts. Wash the fish and and wipe the blood from your board with kitchen paper.
- Cut off the tail with a knife. Use a robust pair of scissors to snip off the pectoral fins.
- Lift the flounder in your weaker hand and carefully snip off the fins around the edge on either side.
Baked Whole Flounder With Deep Fried Potato Wedges
While there are some types of white fish—such as perhaps monkfish, or even cod—which can take the addition of an excessive number of strong tasting ingredients, flounder is definitely not one of those fish. The taste of flounder is incredibly delicate and if you do want to experience the taste and enjoy the fish at its best, be careful what ingredients and how many you add. Big, bold, rich, tomato based sauces will simply overwhelm the fish and while the meal may very well be delicious, you will not get the true taste of the flounder. This incredibly simple creation complements the flounder but in no way overwhelms its natural flavours.
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 40 min
Ready in: 1 hour 40 min
Yields: One serving
- 1 medium baking potato, cut in to six wedges
- 1 prepared flounder
- 1oz butter
- 1 small shallot, peeled and finely sliced
- 5 or 6 capers
- Juice of half a lemon
- Salt and black pepper
- Malt vinegar
- Put the potato wedges in to a pot of cold, salted water and bring to a boil. Simmer for ten to fifteen minutes, just until you can see the skins starting to separate.
- Drain the potato wedges and lay them in a single layer in a plastic dish. Refrigerate uncovered for a minimum of half an hour.
- Take the potato wedges from the fridge and deep fry for five minutes until they are only just starting to take on colour. Drain on kitchen paper and refrigerate as before for a further minimum half hour.
- Put your oven on to preheat to 375F/190C.
- Lay a large sheet of tinfoil in a deep baking or roasting tray. Break up the butter in to small pieces and arrange as a bed for the flounder. This will prevent it sticking to the foil.
- Lay the flounder on the butter, dark side up. Scatter with the shallot and capers. Pour over the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
- Carefully wrap the foil in to a loose but sealed parcel. Bake in the oven for twenty minutes.
- Deep fry the potato wedges for five more minutes until crispy and golden. Drain on kitchen paper while you remove the flounder from the oven.
- Be careful of escaping steam as you carefully unwrap the foil. Use a fish slice to plate the flounder and a spoon to drizzle with some of the cooking juices.
- Plate the potato wedges and season them with salt and malt vinegar.
- To eat a flounder served in this fashion, begin by carefully peeleing away the dark skin. Use your fork to slide the meat off either side of the backbone. The backbone should then easily lift free, allowing access to the meat underneath.