Sunday, February 22, 2009

109. Fish en Papillote with Tomatoes and Olives (p. 302)

I decided to make a romantic dinner for my wife for Valentine's Day ... No small feat with a seven-week-old baby, but I decided to give it a try anyway.

I picked this recipe* because it looked elegant but relatively easy. Basically, all you do is put the ingredients on a piece of parchment, wrap it up, cook, and enjoy.

The recipe calls for red snapper, but Whole Foods didn't have any. No worries, since The Book says that you can substitute tilefish, halibut, cod, haddock, salmon, striped bass, white sea bass or mahimahi. I decided to go with the halibut, and it worked out just great.

I seasoned each of the halibut steaks with a little salt and pepper and topped each with some sliced tomato, sliced kalamata olives, a little red pepper flakes, some thinly sliced orange zest, a couple of sprigs of parsley and a little bit of butter. I folded the edges of the parchment to make a nice, tightly-sealed envelope. Into a very hot oven for just a few minutes (I pre-heated the baking sheet before putting the fish in the oven).

After they cooked, the parchment had browned a bit. I carefully took them off the baking sheet and put them on a couple of plates. I slit the paper open, and a whoosh of orange-scented steam came out. Inside the little package was a perfectly-cooked halibut steak swimming in a flavorful, buttry sauce.

This was a very delicious dish. The fish was excellent: sweet and firm with a nice flavor. The sauce was nice, too. The olives gave it a nice briny-ness, the orange zest gave it a nice citrus zip, but not the pedestrian lemon flavor that you'd always be expecting. The red pepper gave it some bite ... maybe a little bit too much heat, though. I'll probably use just a little less next time. The other thing that I'd do differently would be to seed and chop the tomatoes rather than slice them. The sliced tomatoes were pretty, but they didn't cook enough and they gave off too much liquid.

Even though we didn't get to sit down and eat together (we had to take turns tending to the baby), it was still a romantic dinner in its own way. Parenthood brings with it a whole host of challenges, not the least of which is trying to find some time for mom and dad. But, romance comes in all different shapes and sizes, and I wouldn't have wanted to spend my Valentine's day any other way.

Date Cooked: February 14, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: A-

*This recipe isn't online.


Michelle said...

Awww that's sweet! I love making fish "en papillotie" :-) I've also heard that you wrap fish up and cook it in so unconventional in the dishwasher or on the engine of a running car! Haven't tried either...

The Mediocre Cook said...

What I find most amazing is that for valentine's day I also cooked halibut steaks at home for my wife. I will definitely have to try out the 'en papillote' method of cooking fish. Glad it turned out so well!