Here is a beautiful example of a John Dory. Unfortunately this is a fish that is rarely seen in the States. Why, I am not certain. Living in Charleston where the seafood is more plentiful than Nashville we would see these from time to time but nothing on a regular basis. When I lived in London the John Dory was a regular at both the fish mongers as well as on menus. This fish has a wonderful flavor and is a great mix of soft white flesh that is not as flakey as snapper but is so buttery rich you can not pass it up. Even the skin when properly crisped in a pan is lovely.
One of the most interesting stories about the John Dory that has always caught my attention is a name that it is commonly known by, St. Pierre or San Pierre. One of the stories I have heard is that Saint Peter himself held the fish to remove a piece of money from its mouth which resulted in the dark spots on the side of the fish. The fish monger I worked for, Dave Blagden, explained it to me that Saint Peter left his thumb print on the side of the fish showing people how to handle the fish so they may learn to harvest the flesh for food. I tend to believe those who are master fishmongers, much less fourth generation master fishmongers. I also like the thought of Saint Peter teaching the masses how to handle such a defended fish.
This fish is one of the most difficult to learn how to filet. The entire perimeter of the fish is covered with small armor plates and thorns/spikes, however you want to describe them. I can easily remember the first time I tried to grab one of these. I remember it so vividly because of the cuts that it left on my fingers. From the eyes to the tail this fish is covered with spikes. So the story goes that Saint Peter picked the fish up from the center of the body, where there are no spikes, to show the people how to handle it. In order to filet the fish you have to cut under each and every plate, then run your finger or thumb back through the cut to release the meat. From there you can filet it as every other fish. The other wonderful part of this fish is the roe. Many of the John Dory you have the chance to filet will be filled with large sacks of eggs. These roe sacks can not be forgotten. I have featured them in other post and have had great success in turning them into a house version of Botarrga