Finally- It’s a Fluke!

Monahan's Seafood Market | Fresh Whole Fish, Fillets, Shellfish, Recipes, Catering & Lunch Counter-Ann Arbor, Michigan

I’ve been waiting for three weeks! We’d been getting in some gorgeous fluke (summer flounder) from Rhode Island and I had started a fish report hoping to offer these fantastic flatfish. Then the storm of the century slammed New England! O.K., maybe the next week, I thought. Nope, two more weeks of horrible weather. This week looked pretty bad too with even more heavy snow expected. Wait… we just received word that some boats got out and in that little window, some jumbo fluke were landed and we’ll have them in today. OH YES!


Fluke are a large toothy flounder that voraciously feed on a wide variety of fish and shellfish. These fish can weigh up to 20 lbs. though average market size is more like 1 to 3 lbs. This weekend’s fish are jumbos and should weigh up to 5 lbs. We call big fluke, like the one Paul Saginaw is holding back in mike-monahan-paul-saginaw’79, “doormats”. Man that was a beauty! The flesh is firm, meaty and delicious. Since the fillets are meaty and large they are more versatile than the smaller flat fish. The smaller flounders fillets are better for quick cooking in the pan, whereas the larger fluke fillets can be treated like larger meatier fish such as cod or halibut. Pan searing, baking or roasting are great methods but you can’t beat it when we get fluke in sashimi grade and enjoy it with just soy sauce and wasabi.

The Japanese call fluke “hirame” and it’s one of their favorites. They call the long strips of fin meat, “engawa” and even though each fish doesn’t produce very much, you might get lucky and snag some with your purchase (I throw it in no charge). If you’re going to cook your fluke, you might want to dust and fry the engawa for a tasty edible garnish, yum!


Here’s a nice fluke picatta recipe that we really enjoy.

And here’s an article from our fish report archives:

The world of flatfish is vast, varied and confusing. There are 11 families and 500 species, 130 of them are native to America. Soles, flounders and halibut are familiar to most of us but dabs, plaice, brill, tonguefish, turbot, are all different types of flatfish. One thing that they all have in common is they all have both eyes on the same side of their head. When first born they look like normal fish swimming upright, but soon one eye will “migrate” to the other side and the fish will flop down on its side.

The top side will be dark and blend in with the sea floor, some species even change colors, the bottom side is white, to blend in with the surface when swimming off the bottom. Some would wonder how such a freak could evolve into a family of 500. If you could see the way they gracefully move along, invisible to predators, agile and fast, their bodies like one big fin capable of quick bursts of speed, you would see a perfectly adapted fish.

Some flatfish are right eyed with their mouths on the left and some are left eyed, all true soles are right eyed. There are soft-mouthed flatfish like yellowtail founder and grey sole that feed on the bottom and toothy flounders like flukes (summer flounder) that eat other fish.

A huge family that includes so many fine food fish is bound to have some misleading and downright erroneous labeling. For example, when you see the name “sole” at the market, it’s probably going to really be a type of flounder. Lemon sole (a large winter flounder fillet) from our northeast coast is delicious, but not a true sole. Pacific Dover sole also is not a true sole and it doesn’t begin to compare in flavor or texture to the European Common or Dover sole, which I think is one of the world’s finest fish. Pacific rex sole, although a sweet nutty flavored little flounder, is not a true sole either. Neither is the popular Pacific petrale sole. Many of these fish are fine at the table, but you can see that the labeling can be hard to figure out, especially when the Dover sole that you served at home just wasn’t quite the experience you remembered in Europe.

The bottom line for us though isn’t so much in the name but in the quality. At Monahan’s we look for flatfish that are the tastiest and that we can get to our market fast. Since freshness deteriorates quickly with these fish we have had much better luck bringing in east coast fish rather than Pacific fish. Among the regulars at our market are whole and fillets of yellowtail flounder, blackback dabs, grey sole, large channel flounders (lemon sole), Pacific and Atlantic halibut and sashimi-grade fluke. Our genuine Dover sole we get frozen from Holland. They are flash frozen on the boat and really good quality.

As far as flavor and preparation, most of the commercially sold flat fish are mild and delicate; they vary in texture, sweetness and size. Since most are tender in texture, the smaller whole fish and fillets are perfect for the pan in dishes like meunière or amandine. Larger, meatier fish like channel flounder, fluke or halibut are great to steam, bake or grill. Whole smaller flounder or fillets are also great to stuff (crab stuffing is a great flavor with sole or flounder). I love all of the flatfish that we sell but the sweetest, nuttiest, and most delicious of all, for me, is grey sole. These fish come from the gulf of Maine and Georges Bank. Snow-white flesh and so good flash sautéed or stuffed and baked. Give some a try tonight!  Here’s an easy quick one for ya, Grey Sole Amandine.

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