Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Holiday Spirit of the Williamsburg VA. : "The Cascades" Style, Baked Stuffed Flounder

Christmas when I was younger was always one of the most magical times of the year, in fact it almost seemed like when I was younger, time itself would slow down and even stand still around the Christmas period. It was a time of great celebrating and of family and friends coming together. It may have involved dealing with a lot of earthly tasks like buying presents and coordinating schedules. But it was somehow heavenly.

Now my father had a particular manner about how he liked our family to spend time together, especially on the holidays. And I have to give my Mom and my Dad credit because they gave us some wonderful moments and memories during the Holiday seasons over the years. You see my father traveled an awful lot for work and as a result when he was home he felt like the last thing he wanted to do was to leave his house and go out to some hotel somewhere and spend time with is family. So we would almost always spend Christmas at home. My mother on the other hand was always at home so she wanted to go somewhere. So they would comprise. Every couple of years we would do something fun and go somewhere for a vacation right as school ended before Christmas, and always be back home in time to spend the actual holiday at our house. This was of course not just a matter of choice but also a matter of money, cause that was always a concern in my house growing up.

So as my brother and I grew into out formative years, my parents decided to take us for the first time on a educational as well as enjoyable vacation to the Inn at Colonial Williamsburg in the tidewater of Virginia. The tidewater area is so rich in history and has 3 locales where American History was played out and preserved. Colonial Williamsburg, who for those of you who don't know, was the center of the colonial congress and seat and scene of some of the richest moments in the revolution's pageant. Also Yorktown is there, the site of the end of that war. And Jamestown, first English settlement that lasted in the north American continent, founded in 1607!

Now Williamsburg during the Christmas season is a sight to see. First you have this intensely developed almost Museum quality reproduction of a colonial town as it was on the eve of 1776. Next you have tourism opportunities to see, taste, tour and witness reenactments of moments in that period, houses of the period, shops of the period and restaurants or taverns of the period. Greenery decked with fruits in wreaths and garland is everywhere, candles dance and twinkle in the evenings, and bon fires are lit for singing and story telling as well as lighting up the holiday nights. It is magical and if you are the in the slightest interested in history and the past can be quite enrapturing.

The dining experience back then in Williamsburg was varied as you may imagine. Everything from the modern coffee shop, to the Taverns in the town, to an upscale Dining experience, to the full on Colonial feast with Actors playing all the parts and the guests feeling themselves a part of the action. (Sort of a Medieval Times meets George Washington's Dining room). There were so many different dishes to sample. Colonial foods such as peanut soup, stuffed Chicken, pan roasts, wild game, and spoon bread. In the more haute cuisine area there was the Cascades restaurant, a very 1970's esque structure built near the conference center and visitors center. It had a tiered dining room with windows that looked out on a waterfall. the dining room itself tiered down in the image of the rock formations in the blue ridge mountains which often hold small cascading waterfalls. Done in wood and warm reds and earth tones if was the epitome of a 1970's Dining room complete with large funky glass lighting fixtures and waiters in crimson vests and black bow ties.

One of the dishes that the cascades was known for the it's baked stuffed flounder. I of course being a huge fan of the stuffed anything ordered this. It came out all rich and flaky and stuffilicious! My Grandmother, who was with us, also had it and we decided to try and replicate it at home when we returned. So armed with a Willimsburg Cookbook and a basic recipe we did that! And boy was it good!   Since that time I have made this dish often, changing things up and adding things to create my version of the perfect stuffed flounder recipe. So here it is, enjoy!

Baked Stuffed Flounder ( inspired originally by the Cascades Restaurant, now gone)

6 flounder filets
Seafood Dressing ( recipe to follow)
salt pepper to taste
lemon butter sauce ( recipe to follow)
6 tablespoons lemon juice
toasted tarragon bread crumbs ( 1 cup bread crumbs mixed with 2 tablespoons dried tarragon)
1/3 pound butter melted


Preheat oven to 375
Butter baking dish
place 1 fillet on a cutting board
Stuff the fillet with 4 to 8 tablespoons of the dressing
roll and fasten with toothpicks
pour lemon juice over the fish
season with SnP
top with the bread crumbs making sure each fillet is generously covered
Sprinkle with paprika
carefully pour melted butter over the fish
Bake for 30 mins or until fish in opaque and flakes easily with fork.

Serve with Lemon butter sauce, Baked Potato, and Garlic Bread!!

Seafood Dressing ( this is the good stuff)

8 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup finely diced green pepper
1/4 cup finely diced red pepper
1/3 pound cooked shrimp finely chopped
1/3 pound cooked crabmeat
2 tablespoon chopped parsely
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
21/2 tablespoon Old Bay Seafood seasoning
11/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste
1/4 cup dry Sherry
1 1/4 cups bread crumbs ( more if dressing is too wet)

Melt butter, Mix together all vegetables, cook till soft, add spices, add seafood and stir till warmed and combined. remove from heat.

Lemon Butter sauce

In a blender drop three egg yolks
Melt 1/3 pound of butter
Warm 1/4 cup cream in a pan
In a pan heat 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar with 6 tablespoons lemon juice
With blender running and eggs inside slowly add the heated lemon juice
Then add in 2 tablespoons capers
then slowly pour in the melted butter in a slow steady stream
then slowly add in the warm cream.
Done! Pour into pan to keep warm or pour directly over fish when it comes out f the oven and serve on the table.

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