By Ken Blevins / StarNews Photographer
If there is an old-timer in your house today, he probably is not reminiscing about the grand old tradition of The Christmas Flounder. It is practically forgotten.
The Christmas Flounder is a Yuletide custom unknown outside Southeastern North Carolina, according to Paul Jennewein, the late veteran newsman who was the world’s only authority on the matter. According to Jennewein, it began during the Great Depression, when people in this area were even poorer than usual.
Buying and stuffing a turkey for Christmas dinner was out of the question for many. Something else was needed, something that poor folks could procure in the days before food stamps.
The unfortunate flounders, lovingly stuffed with native delicacies such as oysters, crabs, collards and grits, graced Christmas tables all over the area. Non-Baptists who knew a reliable bootlegger accompanied the humble dish with a jelly glass of high-octane cheer.
It was a tradition born of hardship, but it is unique and deserves to be remembered as part of the folklore of the Lower Cape Fear.
(Reprinted in the Wilmington StarNews every Christmas Eve in an effort to keep this grand tradition alive.)
1- to 3-pound medium flounder (Have your flounder prepared at the fish market by cutting down the center of the fish and filleting the top fillets back.)
1 pound crab meat 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
½ pound medium shrimp 2 tablespoons of butter
½ red bell pepper ½ cup mayonnaise
½ green bell pepper 2 cups of cornbread crumbs
½ white onion 1 egg
Start by dicing up the onion and peppers and then combine them in a pan with the butter and sauté until the onions become clear. While the onions and peppers are cooking, cut your shrimp into small chunks and add them to your crabmeat in a medium size bowl. Once you have your shrimp and crab mixed, add the cornbread, egg, Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise, onions and peppers.
After you have all of your ingredients together, open your flounder and begin adding your stuffing. You can add as much as you like, but if you have any leftovers I would suggest making crab cakes out of it for appetizers.
Close your flounder around the stuffing. I suggest putting three bamboo skewers through the fillets and stuffing, holding the sides together and keeping the fish closed. Now that your flounder is prepared, brush it with a little melted butter to help keep it moist. Place the flounder in the oven at 325 degrees for 30 minutes until the shrimp are cooked. Remove and serve. This should feed 4 people.
[To read the original Christmas Flounder story see this year’s December 24th StarNews]