One Saturday afternoon, I saw Chef John Besh prepare this dish on his cooking show, Chef John Besh's New Orleans, which is an accompaniment to his first cookbook of the same name, so I opted to try it myself and adapted the recipe accordingly. In the late 1970's, I used to make Stuffed Fillet of Flounder for dinner parties, but it was nothing like this one. Back then, we would place the crab and saltine crackers stuffing on a fillet of flounder, roll it up, and then bake the fillets seam side down in the oven. Not this one. In this recipe, Chef John shows the technique to debone an entire flounder while keeping it intact. We then stuff it with the shrimps and crabmeat mixture. The "most" challenging part is removing the bones of the fish while keeping it whole. Actually, it wasn't that difficult. Of course, the alternative would be to purchase flounder fillets and use the same process of a stuff and roll from the old days, but then there would be nothing to brag about to your friends how you could debone a fish while keeping it whole! One large flounder serves two people.
1 large flounder3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup fennel, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup shellfish stock, preferably home made
1/2 # crabmeat, picked over
1/2 # shrimps (U21-U25), peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup panko
Put fish on cutting board, dark side facing up. Head should be positioned away from facing you. Using a sharp, flexible boning knife, make an incision, to the backbone down the center of flounder from head to tail. Then make 2 cuts perpendicular to the long cut, one behind the head, the second in front of the tail.
Cut back the flesh until bones are exposed. The flesh should be attached to the fish along the belly part. Do the same process and make a flap that's attached on top of fish. Leave head and tail on. Slide knife between exposed bones and the flesh underneath. Remove backbone.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in skillet over moderate heat. Add onions, fennel, celery, and garlic and cook, until vegetables are softened. About 5-7 minutes. Add pepper flakes, shellfish stock, crabmeat, shrimps and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and then add panko.
Spoon stuffing into the pocket of the flounder and fold the flaps of fish over the stuffing. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
Coat a baking sheet with olive oil and place stuffed flounder on it, stuffed side up. Cover fish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover pan and return flounder to oven to bake for about 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and let fish rest for about 5 minutes. Remove fish from pan. Place on a serving platter and serve flounder with fresh lemon wedges, and a tartar sauce or a Dijon mustard sauce, or a cocktail sauce, or no sauce -- whatever you like.