Flounder are gigged, caught on light tackle, and retrieved from crab pots in the brackish waters surrounding the barrier islands that describe the coast of the Lowcountry. They are the one local fish that appears with regularity on local restaurant menus. I prefer the fish simply prepared à la meunière—dusted in flour, fried in butter until golden, and topped with lemon and the browned butter from the pan—but stuffed flounder is such a common dish in the Lowcountry that I would be remiss to omit it.

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Ingredients

  • 4 ¾ - to 1 - pound flounder
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about ¾ cup)
  • 1 celery rib, chopped (about cup)
  • cup chopped red or green bell pepper
  • ¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 pound crabmeat
  • 2 cups white bread torn into small pieces
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 ¼-pound center slice boned country ham, about ¼-inch thick, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon amontillado sherry
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • juice of 1 lemon

Method

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lay the fish bottom side (the white side) up on a cutting board and make an incision in each fish down to the backbone along the center of the fish, stopping just shy of the head and tail. Working at an oblique angle, slip the knife in between the flesh and the backbone and run the knife down the ribs on both sides of the backbone.

Sauté the onion, celery, and bell pepper in a heavy sauté pan in about half of the butter over medium-high heat until the onions begin to become transparent, about 5 minutes. Toss with the crabmeat, bread, eggs, parsley, ham, and sherry, seasoning to taste with the salt and pepper. Remember that the country ham is salty and will impart its flavor to the crabmeat. Stuff the fish with the mixture, brush a glass baking pan with some of the remaining butter, and add the fish to the pan. Mix the rest of the butter with the lemon juice, pour over the fish, and bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

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