The technique of baking in parchment, en papillote, is an ingenious method for cooking proteins in steam, especially fish. All the ingredients are gathered together in one parchment pouch, folded and pinched together, placed in the oven, and baked until done. The result is moist and succulent fish infused with the flavors and aromas of the ingredients inside the parcel. The moisture content in the vegetables as well as any liquid that's added to the packet helps cook the contents in very little time. I think it's one of the easiest ways to prepare an optimally flavored meal in just minutes.
Here, the aromas of garlic and ginger infuse the fillet of cod, an otherwise subtly flavored fish. The soy sauce, mirin, honey, and sesame oil flavor the fillet. And in the process of cooking, the vegetables are steamed until tender. Any thinly sliced vegetable can work well in this application, but for this recipe I use mushrooms, cabbage, and shallots. This particular combination makes for a meal that's packed with savory and sweet tastes, lovely aromas, and Asian flavors. Make a packet for each person in your family for diner tonight, for dinner-party guests, for a meal enjoyed quietly alone, or for a romantic dinner for two on Valentine's day. Clean-up is optional.
Asian-Style Cod Fillet en Papillote
2 6-ounce cod or halibut fillets
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 napa cabbage leaves, sliced into 1/2-inch strips
6 ounces shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut two 12-inch square pieces of parchment. Fold each in half.
Season the fillets with salt and pepper. Combine soy sauce, mirin, honey, and sesame oil in a measuring cup.
To assemble the packets, start by placing one piece of parchment in a shallow dish. Place half the cabbage, mushrooms, shallots, ginger, and garlic on the right half of the parchment. Place one fillet on top. Pour half the sauce mixture over the fillet. Fold over the left half of the parchment to meet with the right half. Crimp the edges tightly around the parchment. The resulting parcel will resemble a folded heart. Repeat procedure for the second parcel.
Place both parcels on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Place parcels directly onto plates. Carefully open packets by undoing crimping or slicing into each parcel with a knife or pair of shears. Yield: 2 servings.