Cook's Illustrated (March/April 2009)
A few weeks ago we chided Cook's Illustrated over their complicated but delicious Perfect French Omelets. "Perfect," maybe, but so much trouble!
Their new take on Fish en Papillote (fish cooked in parchment) -- a classic recipe that predictably shows up in food magazines every few months -- is at the other end of the spectrum. It's incredibly tasty, but it's also one of the simplest dishes we've cooked in a while. And it comes together so easily and quickly that it's an ideal midweek meal.
Cooking with foil actually took us back (well, the one of us who used to go camping) to Cub Scout days of "hobo dinners" around a campfire. Just wrap some cube steak, carrots and potatoes in a foil packet, and throw the whole thing on the fire to cook.
Fish en Papillote is simply a refined version of hobo dinners -- minus the cube steak. And you don't have to build a bonfire in your kitchen.
The whole process is very simple -- the only real time-consuming aspect is cleaning the leeks and slicing them along with the carrots. Then you just make an herb butter and start building your little foil packets.
After 15 minutes in the oven, the fish was perfectly cooked -- firm but light and flaky. The lemon and garlic in the herb butter infuse the cod with a really great flavor, and the carrots and leeks are a great match. The whole thing tastes very fresh and clean, and the parsley and lemon zest sprinkled on at the last minute only heighten those flavors.
Oh, and one other thing: This recipe makes four packets. We each had one for dinner, and then we each took another one to work for lunch the next day. We were wary of how well this kind of a dish -- fish and fresh vegetables -- would serve as leftovers. But it reheats amazingly well. Either dump everything out into a bowl and microwave it, or just keep it in the foil packet and heat it up in a toaster oven. Either way, it make for surprisingly good leftovers.
In addition to this Leeks & Carrots recipe, the Cook's Illustrated spread also features variations for Cod with Zucchini and Tomatoes, and Cod with Fennel and Shallots. We look forward to trying them both.
Cod Baked in Foil with Leeks and Carrots
Cook's Illustrated (March/April 2009)
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4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest from 1 lemon; lemon cut into wedges
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
Table salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts halved lengthwise, washed, and cut into matchsticks (about 2 cups)
4 tablespoons vermouth or dry white wine
4 cod fish fillets, 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick (about 6 ounces each)
1. Combine butter, 1/4 teaspoon zest, 1 teaspoon garlic, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in small bowl. Combine parsley, remaining teaspoon zest, and remaining teaspoon garlic in another small bowl; set aside. Place carrots and leeks in medium bowl, season with salt and pepper, and toss together.
2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Cut eight 12 inch sheets of foil; arrange four flat on counter. Divide carrot and leek mixture among foil sheets, mounding in center of each. Pour 1 tablespoon vermouth over each mound of vegetables. Pat fish dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper and place one fillet on top of each vegetable mound. Spread quarter of butter mixture on top of each fillet. Place second square of foil on top of fish; crimp edges together in 1/2 inch fold, the fold over three more times to create a packet about 7 inches square. Place packets on rimmed baking sheet (overlapping slightly if necessary).
3. Bake packets 15 minutes. Carefully open foil, allowing steam to escape away from you. Using thin metal spatula, gently slide fish and vegetables onto plate with any accumulated juices; sprinkle with parsley mixture. Serve immediately, passing lemon wedges separately.