Friday, March 16, 2012

Swordfish en Papillote

Cooking something "en papillote" (pronounced en pa-pee-oh) is French for cooking it "in parchment" - basically cooking in a paper pouch to seal in moisture.  If you happen to be Italian, you would call it "al cartoccio".  Not only is it a great cooking method for delicate seafood or poultry because the food remains nice and moist, it's also high drama for dinner guests.  You serve the sealed pouches at the table so each guest can tear theirs open and breath the wonderful aromas.  People react as though they're opening a present - it's really fun.

When I was a kid in Girl Scouts we wrapped potaotes, onions and hamburgers in aluminum foil and grilled them over a campfire.  Basically it's the same thing although we called them hobo packets.  OK, probably some of you that know me well are scratching your heads at the thought of me as a Girl Scout.  Technically, I was a Brownie and didn't last long enough to be a Girl Scout.  I disliked selling cookies to strangers and thought the brown uniform was too ugly for words.  The green Girl Scout uniform is the second ugliest outfit in the world.  Why did someone think they should dress girls in tree colors?

Sorry, back to recipes.  This one features tender, moist swordfish and linguine in a very flavorful Mediterranean sauce that includes tomatoes, capers, roasted red peppers, and black olives.  The taste is as spectacular as the colorful presentation.

wax paper version

You can use either parchment paper or wax paper for your pouches - parchment paper is more traditional but wax paper shows off the beautiful colors.

parchment version

The only trick is how to cut and wrap the paper to ensure it looks pretty and stays sealed.  I'll show you step by step in the recipe below.

If you don't like swordfish you could try this with any fish you like, or with chicken breasts. As I said, the beauty is that the fish or meat is fully cooked but still very moist because it basically steams in the pouch.  The sauce recipe makes more than you'll need so you can have the leftovers on pasta later that week with a little parmesan sprinkled on top.  Yum.

* * click here for a printable recipe copy * *

Swordfish en Papillote
Serves 4

Note: this recipe makes about 1 quart of sauce. You will have leftover sauce that can be used to top pasta or chicken for another meal.

1 28 ounce can of whole plum tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ cup minced red onion
2 tablespoons of rinsed and drained capers
½ cup roasted red bell peppers, coarsely chopped
12 pitted and sliced kalamata olives
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ lb dried linguini
4 large sheets of parchment paper or waxed paper or brown paper lunch bags
4 (5-6 oz) swordfish steaks

Drain the tomatoes and slice thinly lengthwise. Place in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add oregano, parsley, garlic, onion, capers, peppers, olives, lemon juice, pepper flakes, and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Stire gently to mix and set aside at least one hour for flavors to blend.

Preheat oven to 450d.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook linguini until al dente. Drain and toss with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Reserve.

Trim the skin off the swordfish steaks and trim away any dark red areas. Salt and pepper on both sides.

Fold each sheet of parchment or waxed paper in half. Place the fold on the bottom edge. Starting at the right side, cut a large semi-circle with the fold as the spine and one end more pointed then the other.

Open the paper and place a small pile of linguini on one side, close to the fold. Top with a spoonful of tomato sauce to moisten the linguini. Lay a piece of swordfish on top and add another spoon of sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Fold the other half of the paper over the fish. Starting at the flatter end of the semicircle (not the pointy end), fold 1-2 inches of the edge inwards. Work your way around the circle making a series of tight, overlapping folds to enclose the fish. When you reach the pointy edge, fold the last pleat several times and wrap it under the pouch.

(Alternately, place a small square of parchment or waxed paper on the bottom of four paper lunch bags, add the ingredients as described, and fold over the tops of the bags.)

wax paper version

parchment paper version

Place all bags or pouches on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. To serve, transfer the bags to 4 dinner plates and let each diner cut open the package to enjoy the aromas.

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