As a child growing up in New Orleans, we were surrounded by fabulous cooks. In our network of family and friends alone, great cooks were all around. Not that we were going to 5 course meals on a daily basis, but the flavors of fresh food were abundant. Simple home cooked meals made with fresh seafood, farm or market vegetables and a ample supply of protein options.
My fondest food memories are wrapped around sharing meals with my loved ones. My Mom had 9 siblings. It was no small feat getting that crew together at my Grandmother Theda Faye’s house. It was a lively and festive time, whenever it occurred. My Grandmother was a great cook. She learned early on, how to stretch a dollar to feed a large family. I am still amazed how anyone could raise a family of 10 children.
In our network, was a single elderly lady named Sister Babin. Sister Babin had a large house with a large kitchen. She was very happy to fill up her house and kitchen with guests for dinner or a game of cards. I am sure that a few of the food items that were thrust on us as children, gave us pause, but she was a great cook. Her kitchen always had a lovely food aroma that made you hungry. She had a hearty laugh and spirit to go along with it. We always were made to feel welcome in her home.
I hope that I am able to impart that same gift to my house guests when they visit. One of the meals that I vividly remember at her house, was the stuffed flounder. I don’t recall my response to this dish at her home. Our parents were not fond of us, refusing food at someone’s home. On the other hand, my sister Kelly was known for hiding food in her napkin.
A friend was sweet enough to share fresh flounder with me. Flounder that were swimming, just yesterday. I stopped by the seafood market to pickup shrimp. While I was there, the market, scaled, cleaned and cut the flounder for stuffing. This step made my husband “very happy”.
Shout out to Alexa, for Rod Stewart.
Flounder Dressed with Eggplant, Shrimp and Sausage
4 One pound flounder, prepared for stuffing
1/2 pound conecuh spicy sausage, sliced
1 eggplant, peeled and sliced
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 1/4 cup onions, chopped
1 cup bell pepper, chopped
1 cup celery and leaves, chopped
2 Tablespoons Garlic
1/4 cup tomato, chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1/4 Teaspoon Poultry Seasoning
1/4 Teaspoon salt
1/8 Teaspoon white pepper
1/8 Teaspoon cayenne (1/4 is better)
Couple grinds from pepper mill
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups fresh shrimp, peeled and chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Purchase flounders that have been cleaned, scaled and heads removed. The local seafood market will be happy to provide this service. Request that the market prepare for stuffing. They will cut a slit down the center of fish from head to tail. Following the rib bone, cut a pocket down each side of fish.
In dutch oven, cook sausage on medium and stir as needed. Drain sausage and set aside.
Lay out eggplant on cutting board and sprinkle with kosher salt on both sides. Let sit for 15 minutes.
With papertowel, remove excess grease from Dutch oven. Add olive oil, onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic and tomato and saute for 8 minutes. Chop eggplant and add in to Dutch oven and saute until tender. Stir as needed. Combine in all spices and stir well. Taste the dressing to get a sense of the salt, pepper and heat of cayenne. Add as needed. Remove from heat.
Add in the panko crumbs and stir. The panko is added to assist the ingredients in holding their shape. I like a small amount as possible. Stir in eggs and shrimp, well.
On a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil so that the fish doesn’t stick to the pan. Place fish on pan and peel back opening. Salt and pepper the fish on the inside and outside of fish. On the outside of the fish, brush with olive oil on the skin. With a soup ladle place dressing into the center. With hands, mound as necessary to fill the fish cavity with the appropriate amount of dressing between all fish.
Bake for 25 minutes. The fish should turn white and be flaky. The flounder is delicate and pairs well with the dressing. On your plate the stuffing may be set aside, the main bone section may be removed and tossed. This will reveal a flaky layer of fish. Be mindful of small bones.
Lagniappe: Any leftover flounder fish should be reserved to throw into a gumbo or make a fish dip. Make sure that you go through the fish well to remove any bones.