Good flounder comes from everywhere but California, at least that’s the popular notion. To the unlucky and uninformed fisherman who snags an arrowtooth flounder, he’ll be rewarded with an inedible mush for this flounder has an enzyme that makes the meat inedible when cooked. Even fish families have relatives that are bad to the bone.
Moving along, the best flounder is caught in the Atlantic. The flounder is considered a flat fish, and depending on the species, they’re either “left eyed” or “right eyed.” When flat fish are born, their eyes are on either side of their head. But as they mature and begin hanging out on the bottom, covered with sand and silt and little pebbles, one eye begins to migrate towards the other one. It’s like the old wives’ tale about making funny faces so much your face will eventually get stuck in a certain unattractive position, except for flatfish it really is true.
Pacific flounder on the West Coast is actually called sanddabs, and summer flounder is another name for fluke and are considered a “good alternative” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Overfishing in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico has reduced the flounder population to an astonishing 10% of pre-industrial levels, so flounder that’s not fluke or sanddabs should be purchased with great care, if at all. The main ones to look out for include summer flounder (strict catch limits for commercial and recreational fishermen), Winter flounder (strict regulations in place to support rebuilding efforts), and Yellowtail flounder (rebuilding due to strict regulations).
Sanddabs are tough to find but seriously worth eating when you do. Slightly thicker than notebook paper, making a filet from them has sent many a chef screaming in frustration, so it’s recommended to “head” them and gut them. They’re rich and buttery tasting that has a firm texture with a little bit of a nutty flavor. Our own Hans Haveman of H & H Fish is an expert on how to prepare them, but they are best when grilled, sautéed or pan-fried. It’s recommended you leave the bones in while cooking to help preserve moisture.
Monterey Aquarium Seafood Watch Rating:
- Good Alternative
In Season at the Market