Today is my birthday! In celebration of that memorable Earth Day in 1990, here is the most popular dish I have ever created and perfected. Throw away that recipe for stuffed flounder that is gracing your cookbook. This recipe will put it to shame. Flaky, fresh flounder. Andouille sausage. Crab meat. Gulf shrimp. Creamy butter. Need I say more? The best part is: it’s good for you.
If you have ever been fishing with me, you will quickly realize that I get ecstatic when a flounder hits the deck. In my eyes, it’s worth more than a limit of speckled trout. This species highlights the best parts of the fishing experience along the Gulf of Mexico. On top of being an absolutely beautiful, camouflaged fish when caught, it makes the perfect seafood for Cajun flavoring. There are few species that can match up to its potential for flavor.
They are a funky looking fish, displaying both eyes on one side of their bodies. Their unique, flat shape offers challenges for filleting. Often, the bottom, thinner fillet is butchered and ruined. This is where my recipe begins: the knife. You read the title correctly. Boneless Flounder. No more picking each thin, needle-like annoyance from your teeth and chewing with anxiety. My technique saves every inch of white meat, while creating a perfect stuffing form.
I first came across this method of filleting in the back of a local seafood shop in Mobile, Alabama. The Vietnamese owner was kind enough to bring me behind the counter and show me the tricks of the seafood processing trade. It was a game changer. No backbone, no ribs, minimal fin bones, and one perfect meaty fillet.
I start by scaling and washing the entire outside of the fish. Once cooked, the skin is completely edible and creates a great barrier to prevent dehydration, while holding in flavor. After removing the scales, I then remove the head and rib cage from the fish. A sharp knife is imperative to prevent slipping and injury at this stage.
The next step takes a long knife to reach the fish from head to tail. Inserting the knife at the head end of the backbone, slide the knife all the way down to the tail, maintaining contact with the bone. Once inserted, push the knife sideways to the ventral side of the fish all the way to the lateral fin, still keeping the blade parallel to the bones. Once you slide the knife along the bones to the fins, take care not to puncture the skin and create side openings.
Flip the knife at the backbone and repeat this in the opposite direction to the dorsal fin. Turn the flounder over and repeat this on the bottom fillet. This will completely loosen the backbone and vertebrae from the meat. The finished product should look like two pockets on either side of the backbone.
Now that you have finished the most difficult part, cut a slit on the thicker side of the flounder from head to tail. Take meat scissors and remove the entire bony structure along the fins. Remove these bones as close as you can to the outer fins without cutting through the skin. The closer you get the better, avoiding pesky, sharp bones at the edges of your finished flounder.
Whew! Just writing that description made me crave the end result. Now you are ready for the following recipe. Depending on the size of your flounder, adjust this recipe accordingly. This has been written for a fish of average size, 16-18 inches. Additionally, if you don’t feel like buying the expensive blue crab, I sometimes substitute diced raw shrimp in the stuffing. Below is a photo depicting what a boneless flounder looks like ready for the oven!
Boneless Cajun Andouille Seafood Stuffed Flounder
Prep Time: 30 minutes / Cook Time: 35 minutes / Serves: 3-5 depending on fish size
1 medium size flounder, filleted and cleaned as described above
1 yellow onion
1 green onion
1 tbsp of minced garlic
½ stick of salted butter
½ lb of andouille sausage (I prefer Conecuh)
1 ½ cup of shrimp/crabmeat/crawfish (more is better)
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
Seasoning: Cayenne, Tony’s, Blackening Seasoning, Tabasco
Tips: pick through the crabmeat to remove left behind shells during processing
(For tips on picking a good flounder at a seafood shop see previous post on choosing fresh seafood)
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Preheat skillet to medium heat. Chop sausage into small quartered chunks. Dice onion and green onion. Also, chop raw shrimp to desired size if using. Add butter to skillet and begin browning yellow onion until translucent. Add garlic and green onion and let cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Turn heat off and keep pan over warm burner. Mix in breadcrumbs (I sometimes substitute diced stale bread), sausage, seafood, and a teaspoon of Tony’s/Cajun Seasoning. Add Cayenne to desired spice and a few drops of Tabasco. Beat egg and pour it over the mixture. Mix stuffing well.
Pat the flounder dry after rinsing. Then butter and season every inch of the fish, inside and out, using your favorite Cajun seasoning. Stuff well until bulging at the slit. Top with a layer of breadcrumbs to exposed stuffing to add a crust. Drizzle remaining butter over the crumbs. Place stuffed fish into oven in well oiled pan for 25-35 minutes until flounder meat if cooked through (adjust appropriately for fillet thickness). The fish will begin to separate from the fins, exposing the white meat when it is nearly ready. Enjoy!