Monday, 6 August 2012

Pan Fried Plaice with Feta Cheese and Olive, Greek Style Salad

Plaice fillets are removed from the cooked fish and laid on the salad bed before being garnished with fresh basil

Plaice is a type of fish which is often considered to be full of bones, difficult to clean and bland at best in terms of flavour. Unfortunately - and all too often - it has to stand guilty as charged on all counts. That does not mean to say this has to be the case, however, and like any type of fish, it is how we clean it, how we cook it and how we serve it that makes the ultimate determination. The way I have prepared the fish in this instance is pretty much the way I would always prepare plaice but it is possible to cook it in a number of ways and the serving suggestion was very much an experiment. It would normally be trout or salmon, mackerel or tuna, I would include in a dish of this type; fish which are oily and robust in flavour. I was happy the way this turned out, however, and hopefully the next time you catch a decent plaice - or even a flounder or dab - you might consider giving this idea a go, rather than simply deep frying it and serving it with chips.

Ingredients per Person

1 freshly caught plaice
3 or 4 large lettuce leaves
2 medium tomatoes
4 inch piece of cucumber
6 to 8 pitted black olives
6 to 8 pitted green olives
2oz Greek feta cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp plain (all purpose) flour
Fresh basil leaves for garnish

Basic greek style salad


It's not essential but what I did here was get the salad fully prepared and ready to go before I even started on the plaice. This is simply because when you are cooking fish, you often don't have a lot of hands off time to do other prepping.

Wash and roughly chop the lettuce leaves. Chop the tomatoes and the cucumber in to segments. Mix the three together and season with salt and pepper before laying in your serving dish. The olives came already pitted in jars of brine, so I rinsed them in water before scattering them over the salad. The feta is naturally crumbly (is there such a word?) so I roughly diced it and scattered it also over the salad. A drizzle of olive oil is then optional.
Cleaned whole plaice

The plaice above has been cleaned in the sense that it has been headed, tailed and gutted. When you buy whole prepared plaice from a fishmonger's or supermarket ready to cook, this is very often the way it will be supplied. You may find it easier, however, to also remove the fins prior to cooking - I find it a lot easier than doing so after cooking. Rather than cutting them off with a knife, use instead a pair of kitchen scissors and quite literally just snip them off.

Removing the fins from the plaice prior to cooking makes the overall job much easier

Scatter the flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper. Pat the plaice in it on both sides and shake off the excess. Heat some more olive oil in a pan and put the plaice in top side (dark coloured skin) down. Fry for around three minutes (you will see from looking side on at the head end) until it is cooked half way through. Turn with a spatula and fry for a similar period on the second side.

Plaice is dusted in seasoned flour and pan fried

Lift the plaice on to a plate. Using a sharp knife, cut down what you can see to be the natural lateral line in the centre of the fish. Peel the skin off to the side from the first half then carefully slide the fillet off in the same direction.

Skin is removed to reveal the first fillet on the cooked plaice

Repeat this process on the second side of the top of the plaice. Lay the fillets on the salad.

First fillet has been removed from the cooked plaice

You should now be able to carefully lift the skeleton of the fish free. If need be, use the tip of your knife to gently help ease it free.

Main fillets have both been removed from the plaice

The underside of the plaice technically has two similar fillets but of much smaller size. Lift them off the skin as best you can and lay again on the salad. They will not necessarily lift away quite as easily as the two main fillets.

Skin and bone of the plaice is ready to be discarded

Season the dish with more salt and pepper. Take three or four large basil leaves and lay them one on top of another. Roll like a cigar and slice. Scatter over your dish for service.

Plaice fillets and remaining flesh are laid on the salad bed

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