Don’t you like “things”:http://juniorbird.com/archive/003636.html “of the”:http://juniorbird.com/archive/003625.html “month”:http://juniorbird.com/archive/003616.html? I hope you do because, with the Meal of the Month, that’ll make four monthly types of content that you and I can expect from me. This month’s meal is the super-easy Red Snapper _en Papillote_, which is a delicious, light meal for people who want some good, healthy flavor.
First, a bit on the whole Meal of the Month thing. Since I’m writing it, the meal can either be a recipe or a cooking technique of the month. This month it’s more of a cooking technique, as many things can be cooked _en papillote_, all using the same techniques, and pretty much whatever you have around the house will be great to go inside your _papillote_. Since this month is more of a cooking technique, please bear with me that there’ll be no firm measurements here. I’m sure you can do fine without. If I present a real recipe, then I promise specific measurements.
Steaming is a healthy way to cook, but often too much of the flavor and nutrition of a steamed food will end up in the steaming liquid. The French to the rescue! Cooking _en papillote_ involves placing your meat, vegetables, herbs, and cooking liquids inside a pouch made of parchment. The result is a dish cooked delicately using moist heat, and yet retaining all of the cooking liquid as a delicious sauce.
Red Snapper _en Papillote_ fully lived up to our expectations for the cooking method. The dish was light yet filling, and had great, delicate flavor. Best of all, it took less than 30 minutes to prepare, including cooking time.
The first step is to cut up some vegetables very finely. I used carrot, yellow squash, little pearl onions, and mushrooms here.
Take a strip of parchment just longer than piece of fish you’re planning to cook. (I only picked Red Snapper ’cause it was cheap. There’s probably something awful about Red Snapper considering the price I got it at.) Fold it in half lengthwise, and cut it into a heart shape — tapered at one end, and two little curves at the the top. Open the folded parchment and, on one side, build a small mound of the finely-cut vegetables, and place the fish on top. Put any aromatics — as the chives here — on top of the fish.
You can probably see here that I used frozen fish. It turned out fine, with totally acceptable texture. The fish was thin enough to easily cook through, and I’d probably be open to using frozen vegetables next time.
When you’ve put in the fish, fold the unused half of the paper over the fish and start closing the _papillote_ from the pointy end, by folding over about an inch and a half of parchment at a time. Per Alton Brown’s suggestion, I stapled each fold shut. I left the last fold at the top open, then poured in a combination of 50% Dry Vermouth and 50% lemon juice, then sealed the pouch and placed it on a baking sheet.
Then into the oven for 15-20 minutes at 425°. Out of the oven, place the whole package on a plate and cut open tableside for a great presentation!
If you want to make a bit more of a complete meal, add some fingerling potatoes to your _papillote_. For a richer presentation, put a pat of butter on top to thicken the sauce. If you don’t like the scorch marks on the parchment, then don’t use liquor — the sugar will burn (you can use a stock, if you like, although white wine is actually quite traditional).
We loved our _papillote_; as quick as it was, it’s actually something I’d choose in the future as a weeknight dish. I can’t wait to try it with other vegetables and with wine — in fact, I might even go crazy and try it with chicken.
fn1. As so often, at least in food!
fn2. The staple, of course, being an ancient French culinary invention.
fn3. If needed, you can fix a martini at this stage.
fn4. Or a lemon drop, although I don’t think the Dry Vermouth would go quite so well there. Try lemon juice, Dry Vermouth, Bourbon, and soda. Tell me how that works out since I never have.