Whole Fish Can Be Easy – With Expert Instruction
Look at the images here below. Are you enticed? I love flat fish (flounder is my very favorite) and cooking them whole takes advantage of the flavor that the bones provide. And yet, it can be intimidating. I am here to tell you that you should give it a go! Once you do it, you will see that it isn’t that hard and the results are exemplary. This recipe for Baked Summer Plaice is from Darina Allen’s book, Simply Delicious the Classic Collection: 100 recipes from soups & starters to puddings & pies.
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Listen to Darina
Darina is a world-renowned cooking teacher. Read through the recipe and you will see how she goes to lengths to create instructions that are as helpful as if she were in the kitchen with you, guiding you step-by-step. Once you have the fish in front of you and proceed through the steps in the recipe, it will all make perfect sense. Do make sure the fishmonger guts the fish for you.
Recipe with permission. Simply Delicious the Classic Collection: 100 recipes from soups & starters to puddings & pies, by Darina Allen. Published by Kyle Books, 2019. Photography by Peter Cassidy.
From Darina: A Ballymaloe classic, this simple cooking technique can be used not only for baking plaice and sole but for all very fresh flat fish, such as turbot, flounder, and lemon sole. Because it’s cooked whole on the bone, it retains maximum flavor. Peel the skin off the top when cooked and coat with a simple herb butter, hollandaise, or beurre blanc sauce. We sometimes add a few peeled shrimp, mussels, cockles (substitute small clams), or periwinkles to the butter or sauce for an even more exquisite dish.
Baked Summer Plaice
If you have never baked a whole fish because you weren't sure how, let Darina Allen, one of the world's most cherished cooking teachers, show you how.
- 4 very fresh summer whole plaice or Dover sole, cleaned
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Herb Butter:
- 3½ tablespoons to ½ cup (about 50 g to 113 g; 1 stick) salted butter
- 4 teaspoons mixed finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, chives, fennel, and thyme leaves
Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C .
Turn the fish on its side and remove the head. Wash the fish and clean the slit very thoroughly. With a sharp knife, cut through the dark skin right round the fish, just where the “fringe” meets the flesh. Be careful to cut neatly and to cross the side cuts at the tail or it will be difficult to remove the skin later on.
Sprinkle the fish with salt and freshly ground pepper. In a shallow baking pan, lay the fish in a generous ¼ inch (6 mm) of water. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. The water should have almost evaporated as the fish is cooked. Check to see whether the fish is cooked by lifting the flesh from the bone at the head and it should lift off the bone easily and be white with no trace of pink.
Just before serving, make the herb butter: In a saucepan, gently melt the butter, then stir in the freshly chopped herbs.
To serve, grasp the skin near the tail of the fish and pull it off gently (the skin will tear badly if not properly cut as above). Lift the fish onto hot plates and spoon the herb butter evenly over the fish. Serve immediately.