Fish en Papillote
Once a year we host a fancy dinner party to celebrate Tom's and our friend Cindy's birthdays. But this year we also cooked the meal.
The theme was Sea and Salt. From caviar and smoked salmon on toast points--to mini-lobster rolls---to a beautiful seafood terrine which Tom made--- to finishing with a salted caramel pudding.
Our pièce de résistance was fish en papillote.
The fish is cooked in parchment paper in the oven, where it steams gently.
Since we'd never done this dish before, I reviewed a lot of videos and looked in a lot of cookbooks.
Most suggested making a heart shaped packet of parchment but I decided to make ours into "twists" and tie them with sea kelp, which when softened in warm water becomes workable.
You can pretty much pick any fish and add your choice of veggies and flavorings. Tom chose cod based on what was fresh at the grocery store. And I decided on making a Meyer lemon and herb topping over Israeli couscous and asparagus.
Cod with Meyer Lemons and Herbs, Asparagus over Couscous
4 ounce portion of cod per person
12 x 18 piece of parchment per serving
dried sea kelp, softened and cut in 1/2 inch "strings"
1 Meyer lemon, very thinly sliced and more to squeeze
tips of fresh rosemary
salt and pepper
good quality olive oil
1 cup pre-cooked Israeli couscous, al dente (see below)
slightly-cooked very thin asparagus, about 4 inches long, 5 pieces per serving
For the asparagus, use the top 3-5 inches of very thin stalks. Lay them flat on a plate and microwave them for 2 minutes to pre-cook them but keep them bright green. Can be done well ahead of time.
For the couscous, saute a large shallot in oil or butter, add 1 cup Israeli couscous and stir until toasted but not brown, then add 1 1/4 cups of chicken broth, and a pinch of salt. Stir, bring to a boil, and cook gently for 9-10 minutes. It should be al dente and not mushy. Set aside. Can be made ahead.
To make each packet, place about 1/3 cup of couscous in the center of the parchment paper. Lay out 5 pieces of asparagus in one layer. Salt and pepper the fish well --- on both sides --- then place it on the asparagus. Splash the fish generously with olive oil, squeeze a little lemon juice on top. Then place two very thinly sliced pieces of lemon on top. Add the tips of a sprig of rosemary.
Hold one corner up of the parchment and then gather the paper, accordion style, in one direction, overlapping the paper to seal in the flavors. When you are finished enclosing the fish, give it a twist to be sure the packet is completely sealed, then tie it with the wet sea kelp "string."
Place on a heavy cookie sheet, and refrigerate. Can be made 2 hours ahead of time.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place in center of oven, and bake until the fish feels firm to touch from the outside, about 20 minutes.
This is a very forgiving way to cook fish but looks impressive at the table.