The other night I was in search of another light, satisfying, simple but tasty dinner. I wandered around Citarella knowing full well I wanted fresh fish. It’s one of my go to supermarkets when I’m in the mood. (The Lobster Place or greenmarkets are also often part of my fish repertoire). My only criteria were for something wild, local and seasonal. For this, the fishmonger steered me toward whole flounder that came in just that day, something I rarely cook since I usually buy filets.
I’m now a convert to cooking the whole fish; it preserves the delicate flavor and is more economical too. To make it even easier, I have the fishmonger clean and slit the fish to create a book like flap into which I stuff aromatics and other ingredients.
This recipe couldn’t be less fuss, the only challenge is minding the bones, but with a little vigilance you’ll have no problem. I wanted to stray away from the usual olive oil and lemon, so instead I sliced some fennel on my mandolin, tossed it with some olive oil and nicoise olives, and finished it with some blood orange “steaks”-all in a matter of 10 minutes. I saved the fennel fronds and orange peels to stuff into the pocket of the fish for added flavor. I think this would be a success with an even meatier fish liked striped bass. Let me know if you decide to try it and how it turns out.
Whole Flounder with Fennel, Blood Oranges and Olives
2 Whole flounder (about 1 lb each), cleaned and slit
1 fennel (cored and sliced thin or on a mandolin)
1 blood orange (skinned and cut into round “steaks”)
¼ cup olives
Olive oil and sea salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 425
1.Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the flounder on the parchment dark skin up and rub with olive oil and sea salt all over.
2. Stuff with fennel fronds and orange peels.
3. Place in oven for 12-15 minutes or until the flesh is white and comes off the bone easily. While the fish is cooking, toss the salad ingredients.
4. Remove the fish from the oven, and filet by cutting a slit on a diagonal near the gills. Pull back the top filet and place on a platter. Remove the stuffing, pull the large bone out and place the bottom filet on the serving plate. Serve with fennel salad, drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt to taste.