There are things every cook should know and do, like how to boil an egg, julienne a carrot or peel garlic. There are others that tread on the far more intricate and obscure but are also damn useful. Being a culinary hobbyist has led me to research and attempt a variety of cooking techniques. One that I haven't attempted before is en papillote. En papillote ('in parchment') is a French technique where you steam a bunch of tasty goodness in a sealed package created out of parchment paper. I used the following recipe from Food Network as the basis for a recipe, but I had it in mind to use Thai flavours instead of classic French. So using the same basic ingredient list as the online recipe, I cobbled something together on one of my many loose bits of paper, including the side noodle salad(which I'll probably feature in another post since I make it fairly often):
|My super-tidy professional recipe stylings|
So far so good. I had a road map. (Wondering what the title is all about? Hang in there...)
Thai-Style Haddock en papillote
(Ingredients and Directions are per serving)
2 haddock fillets (or any firm white fish fillet)
1 small red or orange peppers, julienned
1 shallot, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
1/2 inch piece ginger, minced
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2-3 sprigs fresh mint
2-3 sprigs fresh Thai basil (didn't have any for this time, but it should be in the recipe)
1/4 lime, cut into thin disks (about 3-4 pieces)
3-4 kaffir lime leaves (fresh or dried)
2 tbsp dry white wine
1 tsp coconut butter or coconut oil (we used this stuff, and it's a-maaaazing!)
|A rainbow of tasty!|
Because of the hilarious nature of this post, I'm going to tell the story of what I did with this recipe that led to the screw-up, and then I'll post the actual directions.
First, I mixed the vegetables, garlic and ginger with the fish sauce and oil and allowed them to marinate for a little bit.
Then, after futzing about on the Internet (again) to find the instructions on how to make the parchment pouch, I pretty much did my own thing. Basically, I took a fairly large piece of parchment paper and placed all the ingredients on one side of the about-2-foot-long piece of parchment layered it with fish, seasonings, veggies, herbs and coconut butter on top.
I then folded the paper over the food and then folded the edges super-tight going around the entire package, sealing the whole deal. It's important to make sure you fold each side about 5-6 times to make sure you're getting a tight seal. Squeeze the air out if you need to.
Now, here's where it all went wrong: "Hey, I can cook this on the BBQ!" I lit the fire, put the parchment package and thought all would be well. Turns out that while parchment paper doesn't catch on fire in the oven, it *does* when you put it on a fiery grill! I was in the kitchen making the salad to go on the side when I noticed smoke coming from the BBQ. Naturally, I'm used to seeing smoke come out of my BBQ/smoker. Then the light bulb of "oh sh**!" went off. First, this dish isn't supposed to smoke, it's supposed to steam internally, hmmmmm... And two, HOLY CRAP THAT'S A LOT OF SMOKE!!!!!!!
Running out to the rescue the food, I flipped the BBQ lid open to find the edges of the parchment smoking and starting to blacken. EEEEEEEEEP! Luckily I have hands that are highly heat-resistant from my past as a line cook, so I was able to grab the almost flaming parchment package and remove it from the fire. Whew!
|Never the twain shall meet...|
Turns out that the food inside the parchment pouch was OK! (maybe slightly more smoky flavoured than intended... oops). I could still save dinner! YAY!
Which leads me to the REAL directions for this meal:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mix garlic, ginger and vegetables with sesame oil and allow to marinate for up to 20 minutes.
- Take a two-foot long piece of parchment paper and layer fish, fish sauce, vegetables, wine, lime slices and herbs on one half of paper, topping with coconut butter.
- Fold one half of paper over ingredients. Crimp and fold edges of package very tightly (about 5-6 times per side) to ensure a sealed package. Gently squeeze air out of package. Repeat per serving.
- Place package on a cookie sheet and cook in oven for 12-15 minutes, depending on thickness and desired doneness
- Remove package and cut open. Pour out contents into a high-rimmed plate or bowl and serve immediately.
|Dinner is saved!|
So, the food was salvaged from a fiery fate, but how did it taste? Actually, despite my boneheaded lack of understanding of physics (fire + paper = bad), it was a success! The Thai flavour profiles of fish sauce, coconut and basil came through beautifully in the broth, the fish was well-cooked (maybe a smidge overcooked) while the veggies weren't mushy, nor underdone (essentially perfect!). Above all, the whole thing popped with a light and fresh vibrancy thanks to the lime, mint, and white wine. I'm still amazed at how it turned out tasting EXACTLY how I wanted it to.
The whole experience of "setting dinner on fire but somehow saving it" struck me as a bit of a culinary miracle, but hey, I'll take it! I'm curious to see how it'll turn out next time when I know what I'm doing...
So, even the worst screw-ups can be salvaged, if you move fast enough...