Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Fresh flounder is mild and light-tasting, and in Eastern North Carolina, it's plentiful.  B&J's Seafood on Route 70 in James City is my go-to fish monger when hubby isn't catching.  They'll scale, clean and dress the flounder so it's ready to cook.  Harris Teeter sometimes has dressed whole flounder, too.  Planks can be purchased at Lowe's and at Harris Teeter.  Look for special sales.  For instance, at Harris Teeter, the planks go on special for $4.99 for a pack of two planks.  Sound pricey?  It's not too bad when you consider that you can use the planks several times.  After grilling, scrub the plank the way you would a pot, with dish detergent and water.  Dry and reuse until you can't.  Each of my planks last through about 4 uses.  The trick to this is to soak them longer than the recommended 1 hour.  Hubby starts soaking our plank in the morning for an evening use.

Don't be afraid to try this method of cooking fish.  It's very forgiving.  Even if you cook it a little too long, the fish will still be moist and tender.

Planked Whole Flounder

1 grilling plank
1 whole dressed flounder with head and tail, about 1-1/2 lbs.
1-1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 medium sweet onion, peeled, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
3-4 sprigs fresh parsley

Soak plank in a clean sink with warm water for at least 5 hours.  Weigh down with a gallon jug of water or a brick wrapped in tinfoil.

Heat gas grill to 400-425F.  Turn one burner off and maintain grill temperature at 400 - 425F.  Remove plank from water, drain.  Rinse fish under cold running water; pat dry with clean paper towels.  Approximating where fish will be on the plank, place onion and lemon slices and sprigs of parsley.  Sprinkle fish inside and out with salt and pepper.

Stuff fish cavity with onion and lemon slices and sprigs of parsley.  Place fish on plank over lemon and onion slices.  Tuck any stray lemon and onions slices under fish.  Use remaining onion and lemon slices for top of fish.

Place planked fish on turned-off burner; cover grill; cook about 40-45 minutes,or till fish skin is dry and papery and fish is cooked through.  You can check that the fish is cooked through by inserted a fork through the skin into the flesh.  The plank should not catch fire when used on a turned-off burner.  In the rare event that the plank should catch fire, just wet edges with a Tbsp. or two of water.  Transfer plank using grill mitts and tongs.  Let rest 5-10 minutes.

To serve:  Peel back skin; remove.

With fork, gently push fish away from the center of the bone towards the outside, exposing the bone.

Lift the bone and remove, exposing the bottom section of the fish.

A 1-1/2 lb. whole fish will serve 2-3 people.  Leftovers are delicious the next day, cold or heated.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Christoph's on the Water

I've voted Christoph's as the best breakfast place in New Bern, based on my criteria (level of service, ambiance, prices, and quality of food).  Four of us decided to try it for dinner.

The updating of their dining room is now complete, and the end result is lovely.  There is a sophisticated, yet homey feel in the quiet space, enhanced by a row of windows that looks out over the pool and dock area.

The china closet and sideboard add to the homey feel of the dining space.

Surprisingly, for a Thursday evening, the place was almost empty.  Christoph's is one of New Bern's best-kept secrets.  I asked the staff if they were aware that their phone number is not easily accessible.  They have no listing in the yellow pages under the restaurant heading.  Oddly, they were all unaware.

After we placed our orders, we were served salads with warm rolls and butter.  The rolls and butter were wonderful.

The salad was just a tad disappointing, with several wilted pieces of lettuce.  I found enough fresh, crispy lettuce to eat, though, as it was a good-sized salad.

Guy and I both ordered the daily special:  A tenderloin of beef with a lump crab cake, braised asparagus and Bearnaise sauce, for $22 each, including salad and rolls and butter.

The filet was cooked perfectly, the sauce was divine and the crab cake had wonderful flavor, though it did have more filler than I like.  The rich sauce permeated the meal, in a good way, without detracting from the meat, seafood or veggie.  I would definitely order this again.

Rita ordered the Parmesan & Herb Dusted Salmon with Portobello & Bliss Potato Hash, Wilted Greens and Charred Tomato Crema for $19.  Salad was not included, but rolls and butter were.  She ate every drop and said she enjoyed it.

Tom ordered the Braised Pork Shank with Sweet Potto Mash, Sugar Snap Peas and Cherry Balsamic Glaze for $20.  Salad was not included, but rolls and butter were.  He also ate every drop and said it was delicious.

Christoph's has an easy-to-read one-page dinner menu of Steaks, Seafood and House Specialties.  Honestly, I wanted one of everything.  Next time I may try the Sonoran Shrimp & Pepper Jack Grits,and Guy said he'll try the Four Peppercorn Rib Eye Steak.  But I also want to try the Lobster Ravioli, the Pan Seared Grouper, the Chicken Farfalle and the Smothered Pork Chops.  Heck, I want to try every single menu item.  I like the fact that Christoph's has three heart-healthy menu items to pick from.  We're definitely going back.  Prices are in line, food is good, service is great and we love the water views.  And the best part?  They're open 7 days a week.

Christoph's on the Water, located in the Hilton Hotel, 100 Middle Street, 252-638-0305. 
Open 7 days a week.