Sunday, April 11, 2010

En Papillote

One thing about me you should know from the beginning is that I get a bit obsessive. Big surprise there, I'm sure.
One of the things I have been obsessing over the last few months is the cooking method known as "
en papillote" which basically is cooking in a paper (or aluminum) pouch with aromatics and liquid. I don't know why this is so fascinating to me. Maybe it's because I like to wrap presents and open presents and this is like wrapping and opening presents that smell good and you get to eat! Who wouldn't love that?!?!
I've also given myself the awesome challenge of making twenty entrees "en papillote" for my inaugural Secret Kitchen dinner, so I figured I had a lot of practice ahead of me.
I had read about and watched a few videos on how to wrap food this way. And frankly, I realized I had been cooking this way for a long time when I cooked salmon in large aluminum foil packages with olive oil and lemons. Ok, so it shouldn't be that hard, so let's concentrate on what would make a great "aromatic". I used fresh garlic and ginger, the former sliced thin and the latter cut into small matchsticks. I halved and de-seeded a few small red thai chilies, and sliced meyer lemons very thin.
I made a quick marinade of chicken stock, fish sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar and chinese spicy chili oil.
I laid out a piece of parchment, and then stacked on top of each other: a dino kale leaf, thinly sliced purple potato (which had already been par baked), thin skewers of carrots, a 4oz piece of salmon, and the aromatics with the lemon slices on top to hold the whole thing together. (yes, this is where I wish I had any kind of eye for photography or someone in the household who did). I poured the marinade and some olive oil on each piece and sealed the pouches up. I had never used parchment, but wanted to try it. I was worried that I didn't seal them enough as you are looking for the paper to puff up during cooking and mine didn't look puffy enough for me I guess. The fish cooked fine. There were no leaks. The fish was a little dry and next time I try (in a day or so) I am going to use more liquid. I had only used about three tablespoons in each pouch, and I think I can use more.
Because this is California, and specifically Nor-Cal, I also used a specific aromatic that I will be using on the entree for my 4/20 dinner. I had trimmings that a friend brought me from a garden up north. I used a few pinches of this herb in the pouches and damned if the fish didn't waft that familiarly delicious scent..ever so faintly. Puuurfect! It smelled like all my favorite gardens put together.
I had two friends who tested the fish that night with me. Both said it was good, but needed more liquid, and only one could smell the herb.
Today its raining, so I am going to be in the kitchen all day. I have notions for small cherry tomato tarts (I found a recipe in Food & Wine, and can't help myself, they look so good!), and pork loin. I will also be making a few kinds of baked goods, banana bread and snickerdoodles for my never-ending bake sale.
Time to braid the hair and fire up the oven~

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