There are a lot of different fish I’ve wanted to try, but most of the fish I eat are local or seasonal species. I’m also in a somewhat dire financial situation, which limits my family’s seafood purchases mostly to things I know will be eaten. I can’t afford expensive failed experiments. But for this blog to grow, I’m going to have to expand my horizons and start buying unfamiliar fish from different sellers so I can share my experiences. I don’t plan on adding Chilean sea bass or opah to my regular rotation, but I’m both curious and gluttonous, and I want to try it all…eventually.
One of the places within driving distance that I can get various species of wild and farm-raised seafood is Whole Foods. The closest Whole Foods to me is twenty miles away, but the company has a fish plant down on the State Fish Pier in Gloucester. With their commitment to only selling what they deem sustainably caught or raised seafood, I figure it is probably the best way to try fish that I would not see otherwise. I don’t hold much faith in the trendy Eco-labels that you see on seafood these days, but it’s better than nothing when trying fish that is not local. In my case, I saw that they were having a sale on Pacific Dover sole, a popular flatfish named for a similarity with the more famous Dover sole of Europe. I’ve never had it and at $7 a pound it was a little less than what I usually pay for local haddock.
The haddock that Whole Foods had on sale was from Norway and at $15 a pound was almost twice as much I pay!
As I looked around I saw prices way too rich for my blood. Arctic char is another fish I always wanted to try. But not when farm-raised Arctic char is selling for what I pay for wild Atlantic halibut. Don’t get me wrong, the place was magnificent, the fish was all top quality, but I can’t justify, nor afford, to spend twice as much on fish that I can get closer to home. I did not see any of our locally caught fish on display this day, but I do know fishermen who sell to Whole Foods. I’m curious to find out how much of a markup our local fish gets compared to the same fish sold by my local fish dealer of choice.
So enough about my grumbling about prices…how was the Pacific Dover sole?
The fillets were nice and fresh looking, no dark spots or worms, with a nice clean smell. Some were thicker than others, but all the fillets were what I expect from a flounder sold as a sole. I didn’t really have a recipe planned out and with not a ton of ingredients in the house I came up with this:
Recipe: Baked Pacific Dover Sole with Walnut/Cracker Topping
I didn’t want to duplicate the flounder fish pie, so instead of mashed potato topping I topped everything with a blend of walnut and Ritz crumbs for a familiar, but different take.
- 2 lbs Pacific Dover sole fillets (any thin flounder fillets will work well)
- 1/2 Onion
- 3 Cloves of garlic
- 2 Celery stalks
- 1 Medium carrot
- Approx 6 medium crimini mushrooms
- Approx 1/2 cup walnuts
- Approx 1/2 sleeve Ritz Crackers (or Saltines/panko/homemade crumbs)
- 1 Large Lemon – juice and zest
- Salt, Pepper, Italian herbs
- Olive oil
Chop vegetables fine and saute in olive oil until nice and caramelized. Grease a baking sheet or large casserole. Season fillets with salt and pepper and layer the fish to cover the bottom, you may have enough fillets for a second layer. Squeeze some lemon juice on the fish before topping with vegetable mixture. Pulse the walnuts, crackers, herbs, zest and some lemon juice to a moist consistency. Cover everything, add more lemon juice if you like and put in a 375F oven for about 25 minutes or until everything is golden brown and bubbling.
The fish has a very mild sweetness that worked with the sautéed vegetables and the walnut crumbs. I can see a lot of fun variations of this topping, maybe adding different nuts or some parmesan cheese. My wife and I both really liked it, very similar to our local flounder, but when it comes to flounders sold as sole, I’ll take our local grey sole. That being said, for what I paid this Pacific Dover sole was a steal as it is a very good fish that normally fetches $13 a pound at Whole Foods.