22 June 2011

flounder with anchovy & caper butter sauce

We love fish in this household and try to eat it at least once a week.  And if I don't get around buying fresh fish, I always have a back-up: crumbed frozen fish fillets.  Okay, don't be all judgemental now.  Crumbed frozen fish fillets may not be 'fish' to some of you, but it's better than eating no fish at all.  I do check the ingredients list and try and buy the ones with the largest % of actual fish!  Couple of crumbed fish fillets (cooked in the oven without oil), steamed vegetables and sometimes topped with a fried egg.  Not too bad for a lazy school night dinner, no?

But this post is NOT about frozen fish fillets.  Its about flounder.  Proper whole fish.  And surprisingly cheap! The flesh is sweetish and doesn't have a very fishy smell and not a lot of bones either.

I was tempted to stick a 'censored' or a shape of some sort over the eyes of the fish in the above picture - aware that quite a few of you have an aversion to looking at the eyes/head of any animal/fish that you're about to cook or eat, and might find the photo a little off-putting.  But I decided to leave it.  I know that it's somewhat easier for me, being Chinese and all.  Afterall, I grew up with dishes like roasted whole suckling pig, whole braised chicken and whole steamed fish.

But come on guys, really.  Stay with me here.  Its a fish.  Where do you think your nicely filleted, skined and boned fillets come from huh?  Last I know, no one has yet been able to farm skinless, boneless, headless and finless fish.  We're actually pretty lucky here in NZ.  A lot of places that do sell whole fish have already scaled and gutted them.  So all the icky bits have been done for you.  If you haven't tried cooking whole fish, try it, at least once.  Fish cooked that way often stay nice and moist, and together!

I got two small-ish flounders, one for each person.  It was actually just right for dinner.  I found this easy recipe in a cookbook I have which called for sole.  But seeing that we don't have sole here, I thought that flounder was the next best thing.

The sauce is actually what makes this dish.  The butter and anchovies gives a rich and earthy saltiness.  The capers give it acidity and the freshness of the lemons and parsley lifts it all up.  Now that I've made this dish, I think that the sauce is perfect for any delicate tasting fish.

And heirlooms potatoes and organic yellow carrots and baby leeks, made perfect accompaniments for the flounder.

Flounder with Anchovy and Caper Butter Sauce
Recipe from Aaron Cooks Italian, by Aaron Craze (tweaked a wee bit)
This serves two.

2 medium sized flounder
2 large lemons, cut into 12 slices
Salt & pepper

4 anchovy fillets
2 tbsp capers*, the salted type is preferable but brined is fine
100g butter, softened a little
1 bunch flat leaf parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.  Lightly oil/butter a baking tray big enough for both flounders, or line with baking paper.
  2. Rinse the fish quickly with cold water and pat it dry with kitchen paper.
  3. With a pair of scissors, trim away the fins/frills around the fish and also the tail.  Make 3 slashes on each side of the fish.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  4. Working quickly, put all the ingredients for the sauce into a food processor and blitz a few times until coarsely chopped.  You could try and manually do this with a knife, but its much quicker (and less messier) in a food processor.
  5. Arrange the slices of lemons on the baking tray so that each fish sits on 2 or 3 slices.
  6. Smear and cover the top of each fish with the butter mixture, pushing some of it into the slashes you made.  Then lay out the remaining lemon slices on top of the butter mixture.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until just cooked through.
  8. Serve immediately.

*If you're using brined capers, you might want to rinse them well to get rid of the vinegary taste.


  1. Heh, this post reminds me of how, up til I was about 5 or 6 years old, the eyeballs of whole fish Mum cooked (grilled or baked) were my favourite part... and then I got squeamish. Not sure how I feel about eating them now, but I don't mind seeing them!

  2. Millie - see, I never eat the eyes. In my mind, eyes are not for eating. Although my fav part of the fish is just as 'weird' - the flesh on the cheeks, just about the head and near the tail!


Thanks for leaving me your comments - I love getting them! And I promise I'll reply to all of them. Cheers! :-) x.