Turbot may be caught in the Northern Atlantic, the Baltic Sea and, according to some sources, in the Mediterranean Sea. It is a relatively big flat fish, that lives at the sandy bottom of these seas, mostly in relatively shallow waters. There is some aquafarming of turbot, but most are caught by trawling fishing methods.
Turbot can grow up to about a meter long (over three feet), but the turbot you buy at the fish mongers will most likely be something like 30 centimeters (or 12") tall, weighing up to 1 kg (35 ounces).
With weights like these, a single fish will be too large a serving for one person. So there are two main options: cut the fish into two halves, or filleting the fish.
How to fillet flat fish?
There are some excellent instructions on YouTube how to do this. Here is one.
Three things to remember when filleting flat fish:
- As with all filleting, first find the "spine" of the fish
- A flat fish will give four fillets
- The "top" fillets (side with the darker skin) will be slightly thicker than the "bottom" fillets (side with the lighter skin).
If, rather than filleting the fish, you simply want to serve halves, remove the head, the tail and the "skirt". This is the part of the fish with fine bones in it and hardly any meat. Use a good pair of meat scissors to remove the skirt. Now find the spine of the fish and cut it in half along that line. This may take some force; if needed, place your kitchen knife on top of the spine, and hit the knife with a wooden meat hammer, rolling pin or similar.
Pan-frying the Turbot
The process is very simple. First, make sure the fish is dry, using kitchen towel if necessary.
Next, dust the fish with plain flour on each side. Season with some freshly ground black pepper.
Melt a good amount of unsalted butter in a large enough skillet. When the butter starts turning slightly brown, add the fish to the pan. Moving the fish around a little bit will prevent it from sticking to the pan.
For your fillets, cooking time is maybe a minute and a half per side. Overcooking causes the fish to fall apart.
In case of halves, take about three or four minutes per side (three minutes for the side with the lighter skin, four minutes for the side with the darker skin), as the thicker middle of the fish needs to be cooked. You can see the progress of the cooking process by looking at the center cut; you will see the heat "traveling" toward the center.
Drizzle some lemon juice over the fish during the last minute or so of frying. Serve with the butter from the pan, or with your favorite sauce (such a whiskey cocktail sauce, or ravigote sauce). Bon Appetit!