xmlns:fb='http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml' Caribbean-Style Fish in Parchment Paper

Friday, April 25, 2014

Caribbean-Style Fish in Parchment Paper

You’ve heard me mention that I love challenges, and let me warn you, be careful what you wish for! Two years ago I complained that my job had become too easy, I knew it too well, it wasn’t challenging enough. No great captain was created on calm waters, I always thought. Less than twenty four months later my boss was terminated and my assistant’s last day is at the end of August. A whole department’s work is now my responsibility and I’m trying to stay in control. More efficient computer systems and support teams in a different State negate the need for my coworkers. I have learned a lot about managing my new workload and I am meeting my challenges with unwavering confidence, persistence, and positivity, all born of deep spirituality. I see these challenges as rungs on a ladder of opportunities to elevate myself to greater success.
This means longer, more exhausting days, and the occasional working on Sundays to catch up. I arrive home and my husband looks at me with a sympathetic face and says, “Let me guess, you are exhausted and you’re going to bed at nine!” To which I nod my head in agreement and head to the kitchen. To cope I cook several protein dishes on the weekend and prepare quick side dishes during the week. We are home by 6:30. We’re done with dinner at about 7:30. My daughter has 30 minutes to bathe and relax, then it’s 30 minutes of Mummy tutoring. I am rewarded with 30 minutes for myself and then I crawl to bed to snuggle with my pillow and blankie, like a baby!
If it wasn’t obvious, this is the reason for my prolonged absence! I am grateful that you are still sticking around to see what I create.

This is another French inspired dish. I am beginning to think I was French in a past lifetime. I am obsessed with all things French. Even my daughter asked me if we were French. She was rather disappointed when I told her no, our last name just sounds French. She was under the impression that her great, great grandmother was from France. What the fact is that!!! No, you are an American; your ancestors are from India via Couva, Chaguanas or Churkoo Village where your father was born. She then mumbled something about all the kids she has to update. This situation is actually not as perplexing as the time she mentioned that kids at school asked her if she was Chinese or Japanese. Hello?? Kids are definitely a confused bunch.

Fish in parchment paper or as the French refer to it ‘Fish en papillote” elevates dinner from mundane to a memorable occasion. This is one of the simplest, most flavorful methods to prepare fish. Encased in the packet, the fish steams in its own juices and becomes infused with all the lovely flavors of the green seasoning, tomatoes, onion, ochro, thyme, lemon slices and lemon juice. 

For this recipe, you may use whole fish or fish fillets. With bones or without bones (I personally find that bones add more flavor). Big or small. You are creator of your dinner destiny. The most important thing to remember is to salt the fish adequately, because no amount of seasoning is going to help if the fish is not adequately salted. Whatever size fish you purchase, average about 2-3 tablespoons of green seasoning per pound of fish.

Serving this fish wrapped in the parchment paper adds to the excitement and drama of the meal. The kids would love it (Well, at least one of them. The other one will look at you as if you just ruined her life! Then I warn her, "eat the fish or else.....I would take away your I-Whatevers for a week!". Then she eats it without a further fuss..or complaint..Works every time..).

·         Don’t use foil because it reacts with the acids and cause an unpleasant taste. If using a grill, first wrap the fish in parchment paper and then foil.
·         You may marinate the fish in advance with the salt, pepper and green seasoning.
Instead of ochros(okras), you may use tender green peas or baby spinach. 

In Trinidad, fishermen pass by in vans early in the morning, selling fresh fish just off the boat. They scale and clean it right there at the back of the van! Unfortunately, I have to drive two miles here in NY to get to the nearest fish market! 

Caribbean-Style Fish in Parchment Paper
Serves 2-4

1.5 pounds fish (preferably whole, about ¾ pounds each or four 6 oz fillets) 
(snapper, cod, porgie, salmon, halibut, sea bass)
4-6 tablespoons green seasoning
2 teaspoons salt (divided)
4 sprigs thyme
1 medium tomato (thinly sliced)
1 lemon (1/2 thinly sliced and the other half left whole for juicing)
½ large onion, thinly sliced
4-8 ochros, halved lengthwise (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil or 2 tablespoons butter
Unbleached Parchment paper (not Wax paper)

Put oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or heat grill to high.
Cut two pieces of parchment paper large enough to accommodate the fish generously.  
Wash fish thoroughly [checking for and removing scales] and pat dry. 
In a bowl, season the fish generously with salt, pepper and about 4 tablespoons green seasoning. Marinate, covered in the refrigerator, overnight (Optional).

Place fish on parchment paper and place two sprigs of thyme inside each fish.
Layer sliced tomatoes, onion, ochros and lemon slices on each fish, dividing evenly. Squeeze lemon juice over fish.

Drizzle generously with olive oil (or place pats of butter on fish). If you wish to kick it up a notch and have a paaartay, add some white wine. Not too much now…
I always finish with another dusting of salt and pepper..

Fold over parchment and form a half moon packet, beginning at one corner; make a small overlapping pleats all the way around to seal the edges tightly, to prevent steam from escaping.

Place packets on a baking sheet and cook until parchment is puffy and brown, about 15-30 minutes, or more depending on the thickness of the fish, or until fish is cooked through and flakes easily when tested with a fork.  

If fish is not cooked after opening, reseal and continue to cook, checking occasionally. {I personally like my fish just steamed and not overcooked.}

Immediately place a packet on each of two plates and use kitchen shears to carefully cut open the packets at the table--remove sprigs of thyme before serving. 

Serve the tender steamed, flavorful fish with jasmine rice, warm, crunchy, toasted garlic bread, on mashed potatoes, with sautéed spinach, broccoli or broccolini, baked potatoes, or whatever turns you on.....

Thanks for returning, 
With love,


Cooking with Ria said...

What a beautiful presentation and a great recipe . I'm really glad you have explained a few different kinds of fish because I often get overwhelmed when I go into a fish market .Thank you so much for taking your time to share this gorgeous recipe. I am going to make it this weekend !!!!

Cooking with Ria said...

Thank you so much! You made my day! Hope you enjoy it. .:-)

Cooking with Ria said...

I live for this blog!! My family is from Trinidad and Tobago. I am very familiar with all the recipes . I never took interest in watching my mom cook. I just took interest in doing the opposite. :) Your blog makes me feel like I am home again. Your so informat presentation is beautiful.

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