I am no Iron Chef, but I sure as heck can take inspiration from them. In an episode this week the secret ingredient was some sort of fish (terrible that I can’t actually remember) and one of the techniques employed was cooking the fish en papillote, or if you’re a non-French speaker like me, fish in parchment paper – doesn’t sound nearly as fancy, does it.
The joy of this method is that everything steams together in one litte package and then you get to break it open when you eat it. Dare I say, it’s like a PRESENT! Obviously everyone loves gifts, why wouldn’t they love this??
So I did a bit of research online about which kinds of fish to use (sturdier fish: halibut, salmon, char, bass), how long to cook (350-400 degrees, 15-20 min), what kind of veggies (anything you want) and set about assembling my own little fish package just as the iron chef did:
1) First lay of thinly sliced potatoes – I used sweet potatoes
2) Layer on your fish and veggies, and top with a generous portion of butter. Remember from this post I said I would be putting ancho-chile butter on everything? Amazing use for it here.
3) Add some liquid (I squeezed over half an orange) and seal it up. I employed the same folding techniqe as I saw on TV. Yes, you can actually learn things on the Food Network…
4) When it’s fully sealed place on a baking sheet and cook for 15-20 min at 400 degrees. It will come out looking brown and toasty
And that’s it, you’re done. You present to your guest, or settle down nicely with yourself and get ready for the suprise. The flavors pour out of the parchment in billows of steam, and reveal a delicately cooked, flavorful meal. The fish is moist and tender and the potatoes soft as well, because they were thinly sliced they took no time to cook. The citrus is a really nice complement to the spicy butter I used, and while the beans were a little discolored, they were not over cooked and still had some bite. This is such a simple method with great results and endless possiblities.
I just want to make sure you note a few things
1) It is possible to over cook the fish, even though it’s all sealed off and steaming – use your best judgement
2) Make sure you season well! Salt and pepper every layer and put in a flavorful liquid for steaming
3) While I liked the orange notes, I think lemon is a little better suited for fish, even with my spicy butter, just a personal preference
With those things in mind, I hope you will impress your next dinner party by presenting each his own ‘fish en papillote’. OR even better treat yourself to something special because this IS a great little meal for one.