Change in a Package
Kysha Harris | 4/18/2013, 5:32 p.m.
The other day I was asked, "What is your favorite season?" I couldn't answer definitively because in each I find either joy, celebration, respite, reflection or all four. However, when pushed for a precise answer, I realized the common denominator to my indecisiveness is change. I value the change of seasons for all of its expectations and memories and as a marker of time and growth.
Now, when it comes to my favorite food seasons, the spring and summer are my "girls," my "besties"! There is a bounty of ingredients that you don't have to do much with to get much out of it. Yes, I do love all of that rich fall and winter slow roasting, but right now is my favorite season that comes only four times a year ... change!
The best way to communicate this change through food is to cook in parchment--"en papillote," for all of you Francophiles. It is the way you want to eat on a busy weeknight when you have some fresh ingredients like spring vegetables and lean proteins like fish. After that, there are myriad ways to add your unique touch and tastes to it.
Inspired by the most petite new potatoes I found while shopping at Whole Foods, I knew cooking in parchment with fish and a vegetable would be the perfect meal-in-one for my busy client. My other ingredient choices were wild grouper filet and haricot vert. Just needed a lemon and the rest I'd stocked in the client's kitchen.
There are a couple of tricks to cooking in parchment, so take note. First, make sure the portions and sizes are right so everything cooks in the same amount of time or that it is slightly forgiving if overcooked, like potatoes. Second, and most important, is to make sure the pouch is sealed completely, as it is the water from the contents that creates the steam that cooks the contents and makes a wonderful broth.
- 16-inch piece of parchment paper, folded in half
- 10 petite new potatoes (OR 1 medium-sized sliced thin OR 3 small-sized quartered)
- 6-ounce filet of fish (cod, haddock, grouper, snapper)
- Small handful haricot vert, rinsed (ALSO: asparagus, fresh spinach, snow peas, ramps, broccoli florets, tomatoes or your favorite)
- 2 slices lemon
- 1 small sprig of fresh herbs (thyme, chive, rosemary, tarragon, savory)
- Olive oil (butter or your favorite oil)
- Salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
On a flat work surface, open the parchment paper away from you. Working only on the side closest to you, begin stacking the ingredients, seasoning as you go with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Begin with spreading a little olive oil then potatoes, fish and herb sprig, and vegetable. Fold other side of parchment back over the contents. Beginning on one seamed corner, fold and twist toward center of package (folding over the previous fold), making your way around to the other seamed corner, twist and tuck at the end. It should look like a calzone.
SCHOP! Tip: If the folding method proves to be too difficult or you are not getting a good seal, place parchment package in a sheet of aluminum foil and seal tightly.
Place package on a baking sheet and in the oven, cook for 15-20 minutes. When done, place package on a plate, hook in a tine of a fork and twist to open. Be careful of the steam. With a great glass of wine, you'll soon be a believer that good things really do come in small packages. Happy change of seasons!
Enjoy, get eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations! Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter @SCHOPgirl or Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc or chat with her on Instant Messenger at AskSCHOP, Monday-Friday, 6-8 p.m. For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.