Saturday, May 20, 2006

Flounder en Papillote

Cooking in parchment paper is a simple, healthy, and flavorful technique for fast meals.

THE FRENCH TERM "en papillote" may sound intimidating, but don't let the name of this simple method fool you. It's a classic cooking technique whereby food is encased in parchment paper and baked quickly at a high temperature. As the food bakes, steam is created and the parchment paper puffs up to form a dome. Be sure to serve this dish in the paper; steam will escape as each diner tears open the package to reveal a perfectly cooked meal. The presentation of this flounder recipe is fun, but it's the aroma and moist, flavorful fish that you and your guests won't soon forget.

Fish cooks quickly when you use this technique. You can also use chicken breasts or mixed vegetables, but be sure to give chicken about 10 extra minutes.
-- Judy Feagin

Flounder en Papillote

Total time: 30 minutes; active time: 12 minutes

1/2 pound fresh green beans
4 15x12-inch sheets parchment paper
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 flounder fillets (or other firm white fish), about 6 ounces each
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Garnish: lemon wedges (optional)

Heat oven to 450°. Cook green beans in boiling salted water about 3 minutes. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.

Fold parchment sheets in half lengthwise and cut into four heart shapes. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon olive oil on one side of each heart (photo 1). Place a fillet next to the crease line on the oiled side of a heart; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Over each fillet, arrange one-quarter each of green beans, tomatoes, scallions, and Italian seasoning. Drizzle each with about 1 teaspoon of the remaining olive oil. Seal packages (photo 2) and place on a baking sheet.

Bake 12 minutes or until bags are puffed and fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Garnish with lemon wedges, if desired. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Parchment Paper

Parchment paper is a heavy, grease- and moisture-resistant paper that can be found in kitchen stores and most supermarkets. It is also used for lining baking sheets and cake pans and for making pastry bags for cake decorating. Waxed paper cannot be substituted for parchment. It will smoke and burn when exposed to a high temperature.

1. Fold four 15x12-inch sheets of parchment paper in half lengthwise, creasing firmly. Trim each piece into the shape of a large heart. Lightly brush one side of each parchment heart with olive oil, leaving the edges ungreased.

2. Fold over the top halves of the parchment hearts. Starting with the rounded edge of each heart, fold and crimp the edges to seal. Twist the pointed tip tightly-you can staple the tip if you are unsure about the seal.

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