I’m a Southern gal, so I’m happy to eat grits (that’s what we call polenta) and eggs any time of the day. This dish may remind you of shrimp and grits, and like that classic, I would serve this for brunch, lunch or supper.
Flounder is a delicate whitefish. I use it when I want a quick-cooking yet elegant fillet. It is best when poached or pan-seared. This dish uses winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus), but you can substitute fillets of any flounder, sole or dab.
In the larval stage, the flounder has one eye one each side of its brain, like a roundfish. As it morphs into a juvenile, one eye migrates to the other side of the body, so the fish can camouflage itself on the ocean floor and spy its prey and predators. The side to which the eyes migrate depends on the species.
When making a blackening rub, don’t be afraid to cater it to your own tastes. The peppery arugula is a perfect amplifier of the spices on the fish rub against the base of creamy grits. The egg could be considered optional, but no one in my house ever says no to eggs. You could also serve the egg fried or poached instead of soft-boiled.
4 cups chicken broth or water
1 1/2 cups polenta or stone ground grits
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 6-ounce flounder fillets
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups arugula (set aside for serving)
4 soft-boiled eggs
Bring chicken broth to a boil in a large saucepan. If you’re using water, add a teaspoon of salt. Slowly whisk in the polenta and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring regularly so it doesn’t stick to the pan and to prevent lumps from forming. When it’s cooked and starting to dry out in the pan, whisk in the cream and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.
While your polenta is cooking, combine the spices in a small bowl, then add the olive oil and stir to make a paste. Baste one side of your fillets with the seasoning.
Heat a large cast iron or nonstick skillet with 1/4 cup of oil until it just starts to smoke. Add the fillets, seasoned side down, being careful not to crowd the pan. Flip over after about 1 minute and cook on the other side for 3-4 minutes, until it’s cooked through but not dry.
For the eggs, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil (enough to cover your eggs). Gently pierce the bottom of the shell with a clean pushpin. Place the eggs into the boiling water with a slotted spoon and cook 6 1/2 minutes for medium eggs or 8 minutes for large eggs. Run under cool water just long enough to peel gently, so you can serve the egg whole on top.
To serve, divide the polenta among four plates, lay one fillet on top of each, then a bunch of arugula and finally the peeled egg. Top with a little salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. This is delicious alongside any warm vegetable side like grilled asparagus, sautéed summer squash or steamed broccoli.