One of the questions I am asked most is how to filet a flounder.
I do try and go over that each year, but with our fluid population there are always newcomers who need help.
When you compare flounder to other fish -- well there is just no comparison.
Almost completely flat and more round than long, the lowly flounder will never win a beauty contest. They are a mottled brown color on top with the down side being very white. Small fins run around the entire length of the body. The very large mouth of a flounder is impressive with a row of sharp canine type teeth, but of course, the most distinctive aspect of the fish is the two eyes on the same side of its head. That is a trait found mostly in science fiction movies. All of that ugliness is soon forgotten when you sit down to a plate of flounder filets.
Firm, white flesh lacking in the Omega 3 oils that gives other fish that "fishy" taste leaves the flounder ever so mild on the palate. People who do not eat fish will usually eat flounder. Commonly featured in restaurants, the flounder is the darling of any seafood chef. It adapts well to any sauce or cooking method and a bit later we will touch on some of that.
Right now, lets talk about the cleaning. It always bothers me to see fishermen wasting flounder because they don't know how to filet them. They are almost all meat and have their organs conveniently bunched up right behind the head.
To clean, lay a flounder flat on a table (there is no other way). On the brown side take a knife with a sharp tip and cut a straight line right down the center of the fish. Depending on the size of your fish, the knife will go in from a quarter to three eights of an inch. Once you have a nice center cut down the length of the flounder make a diagonal cut from that line to the top of the fish's head. Now once again using the point of your sharp knife begin to peel away the filet by running the tip of the knife down the center line and slightly angling toward the top of the fish. Once you have it through, remove it and run your knife between the skin and the meat to yield your filet. Repeat that on the other half of the top side. Now turn the fish over to the white side. Many anglers ignore the white bottom, but there is good meat to be had there if you take your time. Treat the bottom of the fish just as you did the top and you should end up with four nice filets.
Lightly breaded and pan-fried, the delicate flounder meat is tasty by itself, but I like mine with lemon or a little vinegar. Don't over power the fish with heavy sauces. If you are a regular reader of this column, you know the driving force that constantly sends me into the river is stuffed flounder. To make that dish you will need to buy a small can of picked crabmeat. That comes packed in water and you should put the entire contents of that can into a bowl with seasoned breadcrumbs. Mix it until you have a paste and then "butter" one filet about a half inch thick with that paste. Place a second filet on top of that and sprinkle with paprika or any spice you like and place in the broiler for about 20 minutes. While that is cooking make sure your windows are closed or you will have the whole neighborhood knocking on your door.
My, oh my, what a treat! Serve with melted butter and cold beer and your life will be made. Just remember, when it comes to flounder, don't be put off by its appearance. Behind that ugly countenance hides a thing of beauty.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "I Swear the Snook Drowned," is available for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.