Of all the coastal Louisiana fish species, flounder is at the top of my list. I recall lazy summer afternoons fishing with friends at my camp near Slidell, Louisiana. We’d troll the mud flats and jetties along the banks of the East Pearl River as it empties into Lake Borgne. We’d fish for hours, share stories and cans of beer, and not catch anything but an occasional hardhead. But when the tide started moving out of the sloughs, so did the fish; we’d reel in flounder after flounder.
We fished them on live shrimp, and when they’re hungry, it’s not unheard of to catch a dozen or so in less than an hour. Mostly medium size, every now and then we’d hook a “doormat” 6-pounder. Back at the camp, our prep was simple: we would scale and fillet the fish, cut them into thin strips, roll them in breading, and fry them up golden brown and crispy. With an ice-cold beer and the setting sun across the river, the fishing camp life was good. I miss those days.
Flounder is a delicate fish with sweet, white flaky flesh that is perfect for a variety of preparations. One of my favorite ways is a simple butter/olive oil sauté. It’s quick and easy, and when topped with fresh lump crabmeat dressing and drizzled with a saffron velouté (vuh-loo-TAY) sauce, I’m falling in love with flounder all over again.
My velouté sauce is a classic French mother sauce that is a cinch to make. It’s just a blond roux brought together with stock. In this case, I am fortifying light chicken stock with threads of saffron. Not a common bayou ingredient, I love how the golden strands permeate the broth with flavor and color and combine in a subtle sauce for my fish.
The keys to cooking flounder are threefold: Season it lightly; cook it quickly; treat it delicately. The thing with the tender flesh of this species is that it tends to overcook and fall apart unless you use a gentle hand in preparation. The reward is the sweetest bite of fish you’ve ever tasted. And when topped with briny lumps of Gulf blue crabmeat, we’re talking flavor overload.
Flounder for supper; life is good.
- 2 cups light chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon saffron threads
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Freshly ground white pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup finely diced yellow onion
- ½ cup finely diced green bell pepper
- ½ cup finely diced celery
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 1 pound Louisiana lump crabmeat
- 1 cup unseasoned bread crumbs, plus more if needed
- 4 (8-ounce) flounder fillets, skin and bones removed
- 1 tablespoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 lemon slices
- Parsley sprigs, for garnish
- In a small saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil and add the saffron. Turn off the heat and let it steep for 30 minutes.
- In a small pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter and add the flour, stirring until a light roux forms. Cook for 5 minutes to remove the raw taste of the flour and strain the saffron-infused stock into the pot a little at a time, whisking constantly. Once the sauce thickens to coat the back of a spoon, turn off the heat. Sir in the lemon juice and season to taste with white pepper. (The chicken stock should have enough salt.) Keep warm for serving.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the olive oil. Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery. Sauté until the onion turns translucent, and then add the parsley, rosemary, and garlic. Add the lemon juice and wine, and continue cooking until combined, about 5 minutes. Season the mixture with Cajun seasoning and remove from the heat.
- Add the crabmeat to the mixture stirring to combine. Add only enough breadcrumbs a little at a time to reach the desired consistency of a moist stuffing. Drizzle a bit more olive oil if needed for moisture. Set aside and keep warm for serving.
- Lay the fillets on a cutting board and sprinkle lightly with Cajun seasoning.
- In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter and olive oil. Once sizzling, add the fillets and sauté on both sides until the fish is cooked through and just begins to brown. Remove the pan from the heat.
- For serving, use a long fish spatula to move the fish fillet gently to a plate. Top with a generous portion of crabmeat dressing and spoon over the sauce. Garnish with a slice of lemon and sprig of parsley. Serve with more of the sauce on the side.
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