Cornmeal Crusted Flounder with Smoky Apricot Salsa

Cornmeal Crusted Flounder with Smoky Apricot Salsa

I like fish. Stephen doesn’t. Harry likes fish but only in stick form, and only sometimes, and he keeps things interesting by occasionally insisting he only likes Dr. Praeger’s Fishies. Y’know, the ones that are shaped like actual fish. The ones I haven’t served him in a good two years.

But friends, do I let this stop me from serving my family fish? Well, yes, mostly. In the nearly seven years (!!!) that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve only given you three fish recipes. There’s that fancy-sounding but actually super-easy Mediterranean Fish en Papillote, Spicy Sauteed Tilapia with Olives & Grape Tomatoes, and Pan-Roasted Cod. Three recipes in almost seven years works out to… Oy, we ate fish approximately twice a year.

You may have noticed I used the past tense there: “ate.”

That’s because I’ve decided I’m no longer willing to accommodate this piscatorial pettiness. I like fish, goshdarnit, so why shouldn’t I be able to enjoy it? For years I relegated my fish-eating to restaurants, but finances have kept us from hitting up the places that do fish well. Instead, I’m making it my mission to figure out ways to cook fish that will be accepted by the family. And by that I mean accepted by Stephen, since mostly I just assume that if I make it Harry hates it.

Cornmeal Crusted Flounder has been my greatest success to date. I pick up three or four fillets at the farmers’ market on Saturday, and that evening I give them a quick bath in egg and milk followed by a simple dredge in cornmeal. Into the cast-iron pan they go for a few minutes on each side, then a pit stop to drain on paper towels before they hit the plate. That cornmeal coating cooks up so crunchy the fish practically crackles when you bite into it, and flounder is so mild (and so thin) you barely even realize you’re eating fish.

The whole thing takes considerably less than half an hour—paired with barely-steamed corn, this makes for one lightning-fast meal. It’s not necessarily Weight Watchers-friendly since the fish is fried, but right now I’ll trade WW for expedience. It’s part of my evil plot: I’m hooking the men with fried fish, before I move on to oven-fried and then to not-breaded-at-all.

After serving the unadorned fish to acclaim (from Stephen) and acceptance (from Harry!), I decided to top it with a little sumthin-sumthin, in this case a small pile of sweet-but-not-sugary CSA apricots tossed with shallot, herbs, and just a smidge of adobo sauce for a smoky, spicy kick. Because it needs to sit for a little while to let the flavors meld, toss it together before you start preparing the rest of your meal. This little salsa, by the way, needn’t be reserved for fish—try it with almost any protein. I’m picturing a nicely grilled steak, sliced and salsaed inside soft tortillas…

The first time I made Cornmeal Crusted Flounder, Harry not only tried it, he actually ate it—nearly half a fillet. This past weekend, he pulled one of these. I’m such a sucker—what kind of fool expects her offspring to eat the same thing more than once?
Smoky Apricot Salsa
Serves 4
4-6 fresh apricots, pitted and chopped into small dice
1/2 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced parsley or cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon of adobo sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo (use more if you like spice)

  1. Mix everything together and let it sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Cornmeal Crusted Flounder
Serves 4

3/4 cup cornmeal
A generous pinch of cayenne
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Oil for pan-frying
4 flounder fillets (any mild, thin white fish will do)

  1. In a shallow bowl or pie plate, combine the cornmeal and cayenne. In another bowl, combine the egg, milk, and salt. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. The oil is ready when a pinch of cornmeal sizzles immediately. (If you’re using cast-iron, put the dry pan on the heat first, and add the oil just before you’re ready to put in the fish. Do NOT preheat a dry nonstick skillet.)
  3. One at a time, dunk the fish fillets in the milk mixture, drain, and dredge in the cornmeal mixture. Lay the breaded fish carefully into the skillet, and cook for about 3 minutes per side, until golden brown. (You may need to do this in two batches.)
  4. Drain on the baking sheet and serve.

MAKE BABY FOOD: This is all safe for babies who are on finger foods. Some babies like spicy food, but for others the salsa may be too much—you know what your child can handle.