We are enjoying fresh, local wild flounder on the East End of Long Island now, so I thought I’d take advantage of it while I can. Usually, I’d opt for a quick-cooking pan-fry for thin filets like these. But a more elegant way to cook thin fish filets (or thinly-pounded chicken or veal, for that matter) is to wrap them around a moist stuffing of some sort.
I’ve been buying and cooking local kale for a month or so now, so I have several bags of cooked kale in my freezer for the winter ahead. As I’ve said before, some vegetables freeze perfectly, while others turn mealy and mushy after freezing. Kale (like spinach) is one of those perfect specimens–you can cook it, freeze it, then saute it or throw it into a stew or pasta dish, and you’ll never know it had been frozen.
Kale also tends to be very sturdy, even after boiling, so the way to prepare it for a delicate stuffing is to saute it with some shallots or garlic (or both), then roughly chop it in the food processor. This will turn it into the most delicate of vegetables. The beauty of kale, as opposed to spinach, is that it has none of that iron-y aftertaste that spinach can have if it’s not squeezed thoroughly after boiling. It’s the perfect stuffing for these flounder filets. I’ve perfumed the kale with lemon zest, freshly grated nutmeg, and plenty of salt and pepper.
The fish filets are wrapped around the kale and placed in a baking dish. The extra kale stuffing is nestled between the filets and baked with the fish. Seasoned panko crumbs are piled on top of each little fish packet, then all gets a splash of white wine, the juice of the lemon (that you’ve zested), and a good drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
During the 13 – 15 minutes of baking, the crumbs become crispy, the fish cooks to tender perfection, and the lemon juice, wine and oil become the most delicate of sauces.
This is a great dish to make for guests, since the stuffing can be made ahead, then the fish assembled and baked at the last minute, while you’re enjoying a first course.
Tonight, we had skillet potatoes and local broccoli, sauteed with chili flakes and garlic.
Flounder Stuffed with Kale
1 1/4 lbs flounder filets (or sole, snapper or any thin white filets)
1 small bunch of kale, stripped off its stems, sliced into ribbons, then boiled for about 5 minutes and drained. The yield should be about 2 cups chopped, cooked kale.
2 small shallots, finely diced
zest and juice of one lemon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/3 c white wine
1/4 c + 2 tbls extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 c seasoned panko crumbs (I’ve added 2 tsps fresh chopped parsley to mine).
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place shallots in a skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and bring to a sizzle on low heat. Saute for about 5 minutes or until tender but not yet caramelized. Add kale, half the lemon zest, plus nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
Continue sauteing for another 5 minutes, or so.
Place the kale mixture in the food processor and pulse to form a coarse puree.
Allow to cool.
Season fish with a dusting of salt and pepper on both sides. Place a mound of kale on each filet.
Roll fish around stuffing and place each packet, seam side down, in a baking dish. Spoon any leftover kale in and around the fish bundles.
Drizzle fish with wine and lemon juice.
Top each packet with a mound of panko crumbs, then drizzle generously with the remaining quarter cup of olive oil.
Bake for approximately 13 – 15 minutes, or until juices are bubbling and fish is cooked through. Top with remaining lemon zest and serve hot or warm.