Plaice, sometimes known as FLOUNDER, is a flat, saltwater fish. It is oval in shape, has both eyes on the same side of the head and a brown skin with bright orange-red spots on one side and completely white on the other. Plaice grows to a maximum weight of 8 pounds, but the average weight is usually just a little over 1 pound.
The flesh of plaice is soft and the flavour rather bland. It therefore requires accompaniments and sauces to give it extra flavour and texture. Plaice is often filleted before cooking but may be cooked whole, on the bone.
When buying plaice, allow a 1-pound fish or 8 ounces of fillet per person.
To shallow-fry plaice fillets, first dip them in beaten egg and then in bread-crumbs, coating both sides thoroughly. Fry them in butter over moderate heat for 5 to 7 minutes on each side depending on the thickness of the fillets. The fish may be fried omitting the egg and breadcrumbs, in which case reduce the cooking time slightly.
To deep-fry plaice fillets, coat each piece of fish with a little flour, and then dip them in batter. Fill a large saucepan one-third full of vegetable oil. Heat the oil over moderate heat until it reaches 375 °F on a deep-fat thermometer, or until a cube of stale bread dropped into the oil browns in 40 seconds. Place the fish in a deep-frying basket. Lower the basket into the oil and fry for 4 to 5 minutes, again depending on the thickness of the fillets.
To grill plaice fillets, preheat the grill to high. Brush each fillet with a little melted butter and place under the heat. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally, depending on the thickness of the fillets.
Poaching is an ideal way to cook whole plaice, although fillets may also be poached. Poaching can be done in the oven or on top of the stove. To prepare a whole plaice for poaching, clean and gut the fish, trim the fins and gills and remove the eyes if the head is left on.
To poach plaice in the oven, preheat the oven to moderate 350 °F (Gas Mark 4, 180°C). Lay the fish in a shallow baking dish. Heat the poaching liquid (milk, COURT BOUILLON, FISH STOCK, wine Or water), until it is boiling, and pour it over the fish. Cover the dish with aluminium foil and place it in the oven. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the flesh flakes easily when tested with a fork.
To poach plaice on top of the stove, place the fish in a large flameproof cas-serole and cover with the chosen poaching liquid. Place the casserole over moderate heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the fish until it is cooked. Allow 12 to 15 minutes per pound for whole fish and 8 to 12 minutes for fillets.
To steam plaice, fill a large double-boiler With hot COURT BOUILLON, FISH STOCK or water and lay the fish on the steaming shelf. Place the pan over moderately low heat, cover and steam until cooked. Cooking times are the same as for poaching.
To bake plaice fillets, preheat the oven to moderate 350°F (Gas Mark 4, 180°C). Brush the fillets with melted butter and bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes or until tender. Baked plaice is generally served with parsley, herb or lemon sauce.