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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Overcooking fresh fish akin to crime

Suffering from a bit of jet lag this week, I am trying to get back in the groove.  Understanding that I am on east coast time and that I’m back at work, there is no excuse for not getting up on time. But, there have been a couple days where the kids and I have slept until noon, a strange occurrence in our house.
Getting ready for the school year is always an interesting task; adding new projects and tweaking existing ones all add up to keep a person on their toes. And the time goes by way too quickly. Mix in a little time zone discrepancy and it becomes easy to see how one’s schedule could get a little messed up.
Wanting to not let go of our Hawaiian experience, I made a big batch of chicken barbecue and Kalua pork, the latter being a shredded pork with (don’t judge me) liquid smoke. Now, I smoke a great deal of pork product throughout the year, but every time that I have eaten Kalua pork in the Islands, it has been made with liquid smoke, so I try to keep it true to form.
But here I am watching TV until three in the morning, hoping for a little sleep so that I can get back in the rhythm of things. At the very least, dinner was delicious as I was able to sup on some fresh flounder from Captain Monty, always a welcome gift in my house, especially this week.
You see, I ate fresh fish in the islands as much as time would allow, and it was quite hit-and-miss. Islands lend themselves to seafood for obvious reasons, and it still amazes me how preparing seafood is either something that chefs are very good at or, on the contrary, is something at which they need a great deal of practice. But how can this be? These guys live in the islands. How can they screw up fresh fish, shrimp and scallops?
During one of our dinners, at what most people consider the best restaurant on the North Shore, two of the guests at our table had shrimp and scallops, respectively. Unfortunately, they were unoriginally boiled in butter, or by the menu description baked in it (The menu description made this sound good, somehow). The dishes resembled the scampi that we cooked in Annapolis in the early 80s. It was confusing. I had the sushi, which was delicious and well-articulated, but the fish debacle to my left and right in front of me meant that there were two chefs running the restaurant and the sushi bar. Few things frustrate me more than ruining fresh seafood.
So, coming home to a bag full of fresh flounder was a happy surprise, and after cleaning it and preparing a minimum of ingredients, I was able to remind myself that fish doesn’t have to be overcooked and boring. With that being said, you might very well think that this fish is boring, but a quick flash in the pan and a lemon-caper sauce will bring a bag of flounder to life.
And while I eat my plate of lemon-flounder, I revel in its freshness and reminisce the many fish that we saw on the reef including the large barracuda that swam by us completely disinterested. The beach patrol captain told me the boys were going to fish the barracuda out once it was big enough and grill it up. And I bet they’ll get it right. Just a few ingredients and heat. That’s all it takes. I just wish that I could be there for that barbecue.
Lemon Flounder
Serves 4
4 6-8 ounce pieces of fresh flounder
3 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. Cornstarch
Salt & Pepper to taste
Olive oil, as needed
1/2 c. Fish or chicken stock
Juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp. Large capers
1/4 c. Italian parsley, chiffonade
1/4 c. Cold butter

1. Pat the flounder dry with paper towels
2. On a separate plate, combine flour, cornstarch, salt and pepper
3. Heat the olive oil until under-smoking. I know, you’re not supposed to cook with olive oil; I’ve read the reports. But, I still like this. If you don’t, just use vegetable oil with a higher flashpoint
4. Dredge the flounder in the flour mixture (meaning just lightly dust it) and place carefully in the hot oil
5. Allow to cook until the fish has a little color. Unlike heartier fish, you don’t really need a thick crust on this fish. It can stay rather delicate
6. Turn the fish over and then remove to a glass ovenproof pan
7. In the fry pan, drain the oil but leave the fond (the goo at the bottom of the pan) for deglazing
8. Deglaze with the stock and quickly add the lemon and capers
9. Reduce by two-thirds, and then add the parsley and pull off heat
10. Let it cool just a touch and add the cool butter, swirling it in to turn your sauce into a lemony, caper-punching beurre blanc
11. Adjust seasoning
12. This is one of the few dishes like Chicken Picatta and Veal Marsala where I’ll tell you to slather the sauce all over the protein. I usually like to see that which I’m paying good money for, but this sauce is the money only when it’s all over the flounder.