When I was a kid, I remember my mother taking thin filets of flounder, topping them with a thin layer of some sort of ritz cracker stuffing, and then rolling them up individually, filling a pyrex baking pan with them and baking them. We'd have them with rice, usually, and whatever vegetables and salad she had planned for dinner.
Recently, my brother-in-law, Jacques, gave us a gallon-sized plastic freezer bag crammed with frozen fluke filets. The fish were caught by a fisherman friend of his. Anyway, we stuck the bag right back in the freezer until we knew what we were going to do with the contents.
This past Sunday, I cooked them up. I also utilized some of the pak choi we recently harvested from the garden.
(It was that one posing in the front of the photo.)
The other elements that inspired this dish were the Heat and the Humidity. I didn't want to bake anything in the oven, and we didn't want to grill, so that's when I remembered the rolled up fish filets my mom used to make, and I thought "Aha!"
So here's what happened after I thought "aha."
First, I made a stuffing. I don't really have an exact recipe – I just threw things in as they occurred to me. But basically the stuffing was as follows:
Leafy parts of one head of pak choi, roughly chopped up into inch-size pieces (reserve the stalks – they'll be used, too, but later)
One sleeve of Ritz crackers (or other buttery-style crackers. I am loyal to Ritz, personally.)
About a quarter cup of plain bread crumbs.
The juice of one lemon
About half a stick of butter, melted
The leftover cup or so of clam chowder that we brought home from the restaurant we ate at after we went to the zoo a day or so beforehand. It was the white, or New England, style of chowder.
Salt and pepper to taste
I mixed the ingredients all together and set them aside.
Next up, I roughly chopped up one onion and the stalks from the pak choi. I poured some olive oil in my big 14" saute pan and tossed in the onion and stalks and cooked them gently (lid on) til they were soft.
While they were busy softening, I got my fish out, rinsed it off, patted it dry.
These are three of them – there were…um…seven in total.
And then I started to roll…
I placed a filet on the board, lengthwise, patted some of the filling on most of it, and rolled from the end closest to me to the far end. Why did I leave part of the fish filling-free? Couple reasons. For one thing, as you roll the fish up, the filling kind of gets smushed along and ends up filling in that empty spot. If it was totally covered, you'd have filling squirting out the end. (Lovely image, huh?) But also, truth be told, I think my brain slipped into either maki roll or cinnamon bun mode, with the notion that I'd need a blank section to use as tape, kind of, to bind the roll together. You know, like you would do making the maki rolls or cinnamon buns. Yeah, sometimes the compartments in my brain smash together and the contents get mixed.
Anyway, I did that with all the fish and then I carefully set them all on top of the softened onion and pak choi stalks in my pan.
I put the larger two in the center, where they'd be directly over the burner, and placed the smaller ones around the edges. And I chose to set the fish on top of the onions and stalks so there would be no fish stuck to the pan anywhere. I also, as you can see, had a bit of the filling left over, so I topped the fish with it.
Next, I placed the lid on the pan, set the burner on high, and set my timer for five minutes. When the timer went off, I shut off the heat and set the timer for another ten minutes. I DID NOT TOUCH the lid or the pan. I just went about my business and let the heat and moisture work their magic.
When the timer went off, I took a peek at my fish (perfectly done – yay!) and made some couscous (which takes about 6 minutes). Once the couscous was done, I dished it up.
Very simple, and very tasty. Best of all, I only used one burner on the stove, and it was only on for 15 minutes. (I nuked the couscous.)
So next time you've got some fluke filets you don't know what to do with, and it's hot, and you don't want the oven on and you don't want to grill…give this a try. Be creative with the stuffing, too – you just want to make sure it's moist.
And let me know how it turns out!