Shortly after Donna Frazier graduated from high school in 1982, she sampled stuffed flounder at a restaurant in North Carolina, and loved it. But back then, the $13.95 price tag was too big for her tiny budget, so she decided to figure out how to make it herself and save some money.
Perfecting the recipe took years, but had its benefits, said Frazier, whos now a chef apprentice at Johnson County Community College. Even the mistakes tasted good, she said.
Though it took her many attempts to perfect the recipe, Frazier said its a very forgiving dish. Flounder doesnt look good? Substitute any fish with long, thin fillets. Dont have green onions? Yellow or white, finely diced, will do. Have leftover boiled shrimp from another meal? Works just fine in place of the canned shrimp in the recipe.
Her technique for the sauce is the one used in restaurant kitchens, but it might be unfamiliar to cooks used to making a white sauce by heating butter, adding flour and finally adding liquid slowly. In this version, melted clarified butter is added to flour, and the resulting roux is then added to the simmering liquid in a saucepan.
The first time I saw this method, I thought, Thats not going to work, but it does, Frazier said. The key is making sure the liquid is hot, and stirring steadily.
You can use dry or sweet white wine for the sauce, but Frazier said make sure its drinkable quality rather than cooking wine.
Frazier suggests serving the fish with fresh asparagus or green beans, and new potatoes glazed with butter and parsley. For the potatoes in the photo, she boiled new potatoes, then sautéed them in a butter and olive oil mixture to brown.
Makes 8 servings
3/4 cup clarified butter, divided
1/4 cup sliced green onion
8 ounces small mushrooms, chopped
1 (7.5-ounce) can crab meat, drained (Millers Select is recommended)
1 (4.5-ounce) can bay shrimp, drained
1/2 cup Ritz cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
8 flounder fillets, about 6 ounces each (thinner, longer fillets are better for this recipe)
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/3 cup white wine
4 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded
1/2 tablespoon paprika
To clarify butter: Heat 2 (1/2-cup) sticks unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Skim the foam and carefully pour the golden butter fat off the milk solids that have settled to the bottom. Allow to cool. (You should have approximately ¾ cups clarified butter.)
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Place ¼ cup melted, clarified butter in large skillet; add onion, cook over low heat until onion is softened. Add mushrooms; stir until mushrooms release their juices. Add crab and shrimp. Place mixture in a large mixing bowl; reserve skillet to make sauce. Add cracker crumbs, parsley, salt and pepper to mixture in bowl. Mix well with spoon. Spread equally over fillets. Roll fillets jelly roll-style; season with salt and pepper and dust with ½ cup flour.
In large skillet heat 2 tablespoons melted clarified butter over medium heat, add stuffed fillets and sauté until golden brown on both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Place browned fillets on greased 12-by-12-inch sheet pan; place in preheated oven.
Deglaze skillet used for the filling with the white wine. Add the half-and-half to mixture in skillet. Make a roux from the remaining 1/4 cup butter, remaining ¼ cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Thicken the liquid in the skillet with the roux.
Remove fish from oven; pour sauce over the fillets. Increase heat to 400 degrees; bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and paprika. Return to the oven until top is brown and fish flakes easily with a fork.
Per serving: 557 calories (52 percent of calories from fat), 32 grams total fat (18 grams saturated), 206 milligrams cholesterol, 17 grams carbohydrates, 48 grams protein, 498 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
ABOUT THE COLUMN
Cooking 101 is a bimonthly column exclusive to The Star designed to introduce home cooks to basic cooking techniques. The recipe, food styling and photography are a project with culinary students and instructors at Johnson County Community Colleges Hospitality Management Program.
Recipe and food styling by Donna Frazier, a third-semester student in the Johnson County Community College hospitality management program. She is an apprentice at North Kansas City Hospital.