Fish en papillote

(Beatrice Peltre)
April 16, 2008

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Serves 4

Cooking "en papillote" is a technique that seals savory or sweet ingredients into a folded pouch of parchment paper (or foil), before cooking. Essentially, food steams in its own juices, and develops wonderful aromas. You can use this method to cook fish, meat, vegetables, pasta, even fruit. The drama comes when guests open their packets, lean into the aromatic steam, and instantly like the dish - even before tasting. Successful papillotes use ingredients that are small; they're layered in small quantities, and seals on the pouches should be airtight. Fish or meats go well with aromatic herbs and julienned vegetables, a splash of white wine, lemon or orange juice, and a touch of olive oil. The papillotes puff in the oven and as your guests tear them open, you get to watch their delight.

1 zucchini, cut into julienne strips
1 carrot, cut into julienne strips
12 sugar snap peas
1 small sweet onion (Vidalia or Oso Sweet) cut in 1-inch thin sticks
1 piece (1-inch) ginger root, finely grated
Pinch of ground coriander
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 lemons
4 pieces boneless ocean perch (6 ounces each), or use another thin fish such as trout
Olive oil (for sprinkling)

1. Set the oven at 420 degrees. Have on hand four 14-inch pieces of parchment paper or foil paper.

2. In a large bowl, toss gently the zucchini, carrot, snap peas, onion, ginger, coriander, parsley, salt, and pepper; set aside.

3. Grate the rind of 1 lemon and squeeze the juice. Slice the other lemon.

4. Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Season the fish with salt and pepper. Place each piece of parchment paper on the counter. Brush the center with olive oil. Use half the vegetables to make a bed on each paper. Top with the fish, skin side up (if there is skin), and add lemon rind and juice. Add the remaining vegetables, and a sprinkle of olive oil. Place two slices of lemon on top.

5. Lift the wider edge of the paper and fold it over the top. Crimp the edges by pleating them over and over, or secure with string. There should be enough space between the ingredients and edge of the paper for the pouches to puff.

6. Set on a rimmed baking sheet. Cook for 10 minutes or until the fish is firm to the touch. - Beatrice Peltre