Friday, June 4, 2010

Cod en Papillote with Asparagus

Well, it happened again. Summer hit, my air-conditonless apartment has become a sauna, and I have thoughts like, "I should turn the oven up to 500 degrees and roast fish!" Every year it's like there's a part of my brain that can't figure out the formula Oven=BAD. But I had to do it! The seasonal recipe seduced me! It's not my fault the seasonal recipe didn't come with seasonal cooking instructions!

There were two big factors in my picking this dish. One, Cod was on sale. I've never had Cod but give me a discount and I'll try anything. Two, asparagus season is almost over. My heart is aching. From the first announcement of "Local Asparagus" it's a staple in our apartment, as we munch and grill and chop and bake it into tarts until it fades from the farmers market completely. I even splurged and bought a bunch from the farmers market, with its delicately feathered tips and deep green color. I waved the asparagus around the kitchen giggling like I had just brought home a pair of Jimmy Choos.

This particular preparation calls for creating parchment paper packets, a style that is known in french as "en papillote," though this steam entrapment method is used in a number of cultures. The NY Times has an interesting article about the whole idea from the 90's. Folding was a bit tricky, which is, I suppose, why some forgo the parchment in favor of foil. (Now that I think about it, if you are lucky enough to have an outdoor grill then the foil parchment might be an excellent way of preparing this in the summer.  I must try that.) If I was doing this for a fancy dinner party, I would need to practice this more, because a perfectly folded packet, ripped open to allow the aromatic steam to roll out in a tantalizing cloud, would be really impressive. As this was a test dinner made for only husband and best friend who forgive me anything, my packets looked a little more like mangled UPS packages held together with paper clips. Trapped steam like a charm though!

Cod en Papillote with Asparagus
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 3

- 1 bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon plus 3 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dry white wine
- 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped thyme
- 3 6 oz cod fillets, pinbones removed

Mash garlic and salt to paste in a small bowl. Melt butter with 1 tablespoon of oil in small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic paste; stir until pale golden, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice, wine, peel, and black pepper. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. (At this point you may want to open your windows more and turn on a fan.) Cut out 4 12-inch squares of parchment paper. Take a square, and drizzle 1 teaspoon of oil on the parchment. Place 1 cod fillet in the center of the parchment. Spoon 2 generous tablespoons of garlic-lemon mixture over fish. sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon of thyme. Cover with about 6 or 7 stalks of asparagus, laying diagonally across the parchment square. Wrap two opposite corners in over the fish and asparagus, then fold in the two remaining corners, enclosing completely. Fasten edges together with a metal paper clip or two to seal your packet. Place on a large rimmed baking sheet. Repeat procedure with the other two fillets. If you have any left over asparagus, use remaining parchment square to make it its own packet, spooning over as much lemon-garlic sauce as you like. (Can be prepared up to 6 hours ahead and refrigerated.)

Bake fish until just opaque in center (parchment should turn golden brown), about 12 minutes. Transfer 1 fish packet to each plate. Open packets, being careful not to touch the paper clips, and serve.

It turned out really well, and honestly was not a huge hassle for a weeknight dinner. The neatest part was turning on the oven light, and as it shone through the paper I could see the liquid bubbling in the packets. The cod flaked apart beautifully, and was super moist. Again, this was my first cod, so I've not much to compare it to, but I was a fan. The asparagus-only packet, which was a last minute addition on my part when I realized I had too much, was possibly the biggest hit of all. I would consider making the sauce and cooking just the asparagus that way on the side of some other entree if I was really going for a neat display at a party.

I may get one or two more asparagus dishes in this year, but that season is fading. Happily though, new seasons are coming in. Specifically, berry season. I have containers of little red wonders in my kitchen right now, and who knows what kind of summer treat it might become...

PS- I went to a concert in Central Park this week, The NY City Pops featuring Melody Gardot. My friend Anne who went with me remarked that it was great music to cook to, so I downloaded the album and tried it out with this recipe. She was right.


Emily Malloy (Ziegler) said...

Looks delicious!!!

Jen said...

hellllllllllo there! found you on foodbuzz! :) your page is lovely! feel free to drop by my page when you have the time! thanks a bunch.

jen @

Ms Bibi said...

Looks delicious and light. Perfect for hot summer dinners

Belinda said...

Love parchment paper fish - and this is a perfect combination!

Seneca said...

Wow, what a great way to prepare and make cod. Loved the little packets stuffed with the fish and asparagus spears.

Nicely written and loved the photos. Thanks for sharing!

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