Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Halibut Baked in Parchment

For those of you who didn't instantly turn away from the parchment idea, and are open to trying this, thank you!

I'll admit it's not the easiest dish in the world the first time you try it, but it's very forgiving, it doesn't have to be perfect, and after a couple of times, you'll be a regular Julia Child. If you absolutely freak over using parchment, you can use aluminum foil, but I don't think it tastes as good, or is as fun. Plus, you'll get faster and faster at working with the parchment, and this cleanup couldn't be easier.

This isn't an exact recipe, it's more a method. You can use any mild white fish, and just about any summer vegetable you have on hand, as long as they're all sliced very thinly and of a similar size, for quick, even cooking. Before I got sick, we'd use haricot verts (small, French green beans) and sliced tomatoes. If you're using carrot, choose one that is fairly evenly sized all the way down and doesn't taper off a lot, it will be easier to julienne. I wrote this up for 3 people because I had 3 pieces of fish in the package tonight. Just adjust the quantities if you have more mouths to feed.

Halibut or haddock, or any wild-caught mild white fish, fresh or frozen and thawed to room temp, cut into filets, and no more than 3/4" thick. Allow 3 oz per person*
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly on a mandoline or with a sharp knife
1 large carrot, julienned (cut into matchstick size)
1 medium red bell pepper, julienned
1 large clove garlic, smashed and minced finely
1 rounded tsp fresh thyme leaves
Large pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 very thin slices lemon
Dry un-oaked white wine, like Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio, allow 1/4 c per person
3 sheets parchment paper**, cut into large, fat, heart shapes

Preheat oven to 425*F
Position rack in the center of the oven

Fold each sheet of parchment paper in half and cut into a big heart shape. I used to make circles, but I find with this shape, you end up with a "tail" that you can use as a funnel to pour in the wine, and then double-fold it to close the end off more snugly. Don't make the heart too narrow, and don't cut in deeply at the top, or you won't have enough room to fold it over all the food.

Big, fat, happy hearts

Drizzle a little bit of EVOO on the center of each piece of parchment. Use your fingers to spread it out in a super thin coating, leaving a 1" perimeter dry. Put the papers on one or two half sheet pans that have edges.

Put the onion, carrot, bell pepper, garlic and thyme in a big mixing bowl. Drizzle in about 1 to 1.5 TB EVOO. Add a couple of big pinches of red pepper flakes, maybe 1/4 tsp, and about 1/2 tsp salt. Use tongs to toss and combine everything, and then divide evenly onto each parchment heart.

Drizzle a little bit of EVOO on both sides of each fish piece, and sprinkle one side with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put the fish on the veggies and top each one with 2 slices of lemon.

Starting at the fat end of the heart, aligning the top and bottom pieces of paper, fold the corner IN and UP about 1/2", and work your way along the perimeter, continually making small upward, overlapping folds so that you are forming a collar. Stop right before you get to the end of the thin end so you have a funnel shape. Pour 1/4 cup wine in a measuring glass, hold up your "funnel" with one hand, and pour the wine in with your other hand. Fold the funnel tip up and around so it's tightly closed. Do the same with the rest of the packages.

>> If you did not fold up the edges tightly enough and a little of the wine spills out, it's ok, it's not the end of the world. Just tighten up your folds again before you pop them in the oven. You want it tightly sealed so the steam doesn't escape.

Bake about 10-12 minutes, less for thinner filets and longer for thicker ones.

Slide a big spatula under the package and grasp one corner of the paper with your other hand to help guide each one to its dinner plate. It's more fun for everyone to cut into their own paper "surprise", and they won't have to try to wrangle them off of a serving dish. Remember, there'll be over 1/4 cup of juices in each one. Be sure to give everyone a spoon so they can scoop all the juices out. I like them so much I swear I'd drink them straight out of a glass, LOL.

*Yes, many U.S. recipes these days allow for as much as 5 or 6 oz of meat per person, but we don't eat that much. If you want more fish per serving, don't use bigger filets: instead, make extra packages so people can have seconds.

**I buy pre-cut parchment paper at the restaurant supply store because it's convenient, doesn't curl up,  and is waaaay cheaper than at the grocery store. The sheets fit perfectly into a half-sheet pan. If you are using a roll, tear off sheets at least 10" long.

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