"This is the best fried fish sandwich out there," declares Old Post Office chef Philip Bardin, and along the coast of South Carolina, that's saying plenty. Fish sandwiches around here are not like fish sandwiches anywhere else in America. There are two reasons they are extraordinary: first, the pieces of fish used in sandwiches are huge. Indeed, we have been to some restaurants in which the "flounder sandwich" is only nominally a sandwich. Really, it's two pitifully small-looking pieces of bread on either side of a gigantic, crisp-fried filet. You do eat it like a sandwich, and the bread is most helpful in getting the fish to your mouth; but in such cases the taste of the bread is inconsequential. The second reason South Carolina flounder sandwiches are special is the flounder itself. Flounder you find in restaurants along the Mid-Atlantic Coast, from the Chesapeake Bay to Savannah, is whiter, creamier, and sweeter-fleshed than the fish that is called flounder everywhere else. It seems like a whole different species.
Recipe Source: Old Post Office
Most of the Carolina flounder sandwiches we've had have been very basic. As mentioned, they come on plain bread and the only available condiment is tartar sauce. Chef Bardin's transcends that by adding sweet Vidalia onion slices and creating a tartar sauce with vegetable verve. The result is nothing short of spectacular.
Preparation Time: 1
Cook Time: 1
For the Sandwich :
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 large flounder filet (at least 12 ounces), cut in half
2 cups peanut oil
1 cup flour mixed with 1 cup fine cracker crumbs or meal
1 sweet Vidalia onion sliced into thin rings
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large, washed leaves of butter lettuce or Boston lettuce
4 slices of the best rye bread available
Artichoke relish tartar sauce (made 1 day ahead; recipe given)
Artichoke Tartar Sauce :
1/2 cup high-quality mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Dash of Tabasco
2 tablespoons high-quality artichoke relish*
- Mix the buttermilk, eggs and Kosher salt. Soak the flounder filet halves in this mixture 20 minutes.
Heat the peanut oil in a frying pan until very hot (at least 400 degrees).
Remove the flounder from the egg/buttermilk mixture and dredge it in the mixture of flour and cracker meal.
Fry in the hot oil, turning only once, about 3 minutes per side. Remove when just done and sprinkle with lemon juice.
Brush the Vidalia onion slices with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper them to taste.
In a separate pan, or better yet on a countertop grill, lightly cook the onion slices until tender and set them to the side.
Toast the rye bread on the grill afterwards, or toast them in a pan after the onion.
Atop one slice of bread place a Boston lettuce leaf, then a cooked flounder filet, then onion slices. Let it stand for at least 3 minutes for the flavors to marry.
Spread artichoke tartar sauce on the top piece of bread, crown the sandwich, and slice in half. Serve with big dill pickle spears.
Makes 2 sandwiches.
To prepare the Artichoke Sauce : Combine all ingredients, stir, and chill overnight.
*Artichoke relish is available in many gourmet food stores. A great brand called Mrs. Sassard's can be mail-ordered from Carolina FoodPros (877-728-2783) http://www.carolinafoodpros.com/