Fortunately for us, the Crystal Coast area which is in the middle of SOBX isn't quite as trendy as the Northern Outer Banks. It is, however, very popular with fishermen and boaters.
In fact some of the best inshore fishing that can be found on the east coast is in the Beaufort area. The water is pure and the breeding grounds for bait fish are extensive. The variety of fish swimming in the clear waters is also truly impressive. Yet one fish stands out as an eating favorite for many southerners, flounder. At one time flounder were so plentiful that it is hard to image their numbers. Today they are much harder to catch, but they are worth the effort.
Almost all of the fish we eat ends up our outside grill. We love grilled fish of all types, and if you have read many of my posts, you know that Icelandic, Chilean, or Canadian Atlantic salmon are among my favorites. Yet we have grown up in the south so if should be no surprise that we have yielded to the temptations of fried flounder more than a few times over the years. Most often the restaurant version is deep fried, which of course brings out plenty of guilt among other things.
This past Saturday we grilled some of the flounder that was caught on my Friday morning Beaufort fishing trip. It was very good, but it wasn't fried flounder. So as we ate our way through some delicious grilled Spanish Mackerel and grilled mahi-mahi, I knew that the last of our flounder was going to ended up fried.
Pan frying fish is much easier than pan frying chicken. We took a heavy skillet and added around one half inch of oil which we heated to frying temperature. Glenda says that when the oil is at the right temperature it wiggles. My test is a tiny piece of the breading mix dropped into the pan. As tiny bubbles surround it, I know the temperature is right. Before the oil gets hot, I lightly coat the fish with a mixture of flour and cornmeal. Then I carefully put the flounder filets into the pan skin side down. I lightly salt and pepper the fish and turn it over as the edges start to brown after a few minutes in the pan.
Once the fish has been turned over, watch it carefully and remove it as soon as it has properly browned. Then place on a platter with paper towels. We keep the heat pretty high so the frying takes place quickly. The actual time in the pan depends on the thickness of your filets, the cooking temperature, and other variables. As I like to say, cook until done. As our picture shows how you can prick the filets with a fork to make certain that the fish is no longer translucent and flakes easily.
I'm not going to make any health claims that pan fried flounder is better for you than deep fried flounder, but it is hard to beat for taste. Doing it our way, puts almost no breading on the flounder which is a very good thing. If your restaurant fried flounder has a thick crust of breading on it, you still haven't tasted flounder at its best.
This is the first time I have brought flounder directly from the ocean to home since I was in college, but I can guarantee you it won't be the last. Now if the hush puppies didn't make me feel so guilty....