Saturday, March 20, 2010

Parched Halibut

I'm not the first ever to state the obvious - English is a weird language. How come the verb "to parch" and "parchment" have nothing in common? They really should. And parchment paper makes no sense, either, since parchment is actually made of skin, not of wood fibers.

Okay, enough of that. No one will ever be able to make sense of English, we just have to embrace its oddities.

I'm embracing the heck out of parchment paper these days, such a useful tool in the kitchen! You can bake on it or stew in it, raise a collar for a tall soufflé or line the bottom of a cake pan to keep things from sticking. My favorite way to use it this week is to make fish packets for dinner.

Halibut is a lovely fish, firm and white and mild - but it can be a little, shall we say, flat? All those flat fishes are like that - sole, sanddabs, halibut, all nice and mild, but a bit boring - but they are also wonderfully good for you, still sustainably fished, and easy to tweak in new ways.

This time, I had a couple of nice fillets of halibut, about 1.5 inches thick, and some of the prettiest, freshest asparagus I've seen. To a generous sheet of parchment paper, I added five or six spears of asparagus, half of a chopped leek (white and yellowish parts only), a slice of lime from Jeanne's tree, fresh chopped oregano from the garden, sliced leftover cooked potatoes (two walnut size ones per packet) and a dab of butter, wrapped it up securely by folding the top over several times and gathering the ends and giving them a good firm pinch. One packet for me, one for My Beloved. They fit easily side-by-side on a rimmed baking sheet (in case the goozle escaped) and I slid them into a preheated 350 degree oven.

When you cook fish this way, it makes its own sauce from the mingled juices of the fish and veggies. You could add a sprinkle of white wine, but it really isn't necessary. Fifteen minutes (less if your fish is thinner) and the asparagus is perfect - still brightly green but tender - and all the ingredients have had a happy slumber party in which they all got to know each other very well.

To serve, you can simply slide the packets onto a plate and let each open his own, releasing the fragrant steam as the world's best appetizer, or you can flip them over fold-side down and slash a bold X into the paper with a sharp knife or a razor and peel it back to reveal the asparagus topping the fish. Either way, it's a dramatically beautiful plateful and you will get oohs and aahs from the Beloveds.

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Blogger Kailyn said...

It's all stream of consciousness. Parched means dry. Parchment is basically a dried skin. Parchment paper is paper that is similar in color to parchment. However you get there though, the fish sounds delicious.

Saturday, March 20, 2010  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Fish envelopes! Such a fine, often forgotten, way to cook. Very '80s, very Silver Palate Cookbook. You made me want to buy fish.

Saturday, March 20, 2010  
Blogger dancingmorganmouse said...

Well, parched was from Middle English, meaning to perish. You can die if you get too parched so that makes sense. Parchment, on the other hand is from Old French, and probably came to English when those Norman (with their terrible haircuts) hit town and everyone started speaking french to please the new overlords.
Love, love, love the english language, it's such a wonderful mishmash!
Fish, I prefer to eat out :)

Saturday, March 20, 2010  
Blogger Louis la Vache said...

Something's fishy about this post....

Saturday, March 20, 2010  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Kailyn, I think you've got it! Now, get the fish - you'll be glad you did.

Cookiecrumb, interesting that this comes from the '80s. I was in college then and busy and buried in Rochester, NY so I must have missed it!

Morgan, I agree that English is a fun language and still evolving new wrinkles - but imagine trying to learn it if you weren't born speaking it? Yikes!

Louis, are you not a fish fan?

Sunday, March 21, 2010  
Blogger Greg said...

That turned out lovely. Never thought to use parchment. I use foil as per boy scout hobo packs.

Sunday, March 21, 2010  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Greg, I got the idea just because I had parchment hanging around and wanted to use it up. Now, I use it all the time!

Sunday, March 21, 2010  
Blogger AMIT said...

Interesting post from you.

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Monday, March 22, 2010  
Blogger peter said...

It's one of my favorite ways to cook fish.

Monday, March 22, 2010  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Amit, you spammin' me?

Peter, I'll bet you're more creative about it than I, however.

Monday, March 22, 2010  

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