David Pratt, executive chef-owner of Brick in San Clemente, says that cooking “en papillote” is an easy, delectable and make-ahead way to cook fish when entertaining at home.
It’s the classic technique that bakes ingredients sealed in a parchment-paper pouch. Each parcel contains one serving, and as it cooks the food inside steams in its own juices.
Toward the end of baking, each packet balloons into an alluring golden dome. Packets are slipped onto individual plates, and each guest tears or cuts open the package at the table, filling their nostrils with the aroma of fragrant steam.
Wild Alaskan salmon fillets are a Pratt favorite.
Before enclosing them in parchment, he pairs them with thinly sliced fennel, fruit, tarragon and black rice (often dubbed “forbidden rice”).
Because the packets cook quickly, he uses a mandoline to cut the raw produce into very thin slices.
He used pluots the day we taped a video in my kitchen; that fragrant stone fruit, a cross between apricots and plums, added color and sweet-sour vibrancy to the dish. In fall or winter, he suggests substituting peeled citrus segments. And maybe some shelled fava beans.
Before opening Brick three years ago, he was the General Manager of Studio at the Montage Resort and Spa in Laguna Beach. But it was his work at Mirabeau that first brought him into the local spotlight. Between 2002 and 2006, he was the executive chef and co-owner of that authentic French bistro in Dana Point.
A father of three, his wife Jaimie is an ER nurse at Hoag Hospital. They live in Capistrano Beach.
Culinary Mentor: His early career included experience as executive sous chef for Julian Serrano at the acclaimed Picasso Restaurant at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. He grew to appreciate Serrano’s minimalism. Rarely were there more than a handful of ingredients used to create a dish. His theory – food should be easy to recognize and easy to enjoy.
The Competition: Flour+Water in San Francisco is one of his favorite restaurants. As with Brick, the eatery is recognized for its made-from scratch pasta and wood-fired pizzas. He says that he is envious of their creative freedom when it comes to making pasta dishes.
Never been to BRICK? Here’s a video that Curt Norris and I made that shows what the restaurant looked like before Pratt redesigned it, AND what it looked like after it opened.
Folding the parchment to enclose the fish and its ingredient sidekicks isn’t difficult, but it is hard to visualize without seeing it. Watch the video. Once you see how easy it is, the make-ahead technique will be yours. Chef Pratt used a 16-by-24-inch sheet of parchment, but you can use a smaller (more common size) of 12-by-16 1/2-inches (just make the folds a little smaller). If you can’t find black rice substitute wild rice or basmati.
Pratt’s Salmon en Papillote (Salmon en Cartoccio)
Yield: 2 servings
2 sheets parchment paper – about 16 1/2 by 12 inches
4 teaspoons butter or extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup cooked riso venere or forbidden rice (black rice)
Two (7 to 8 ounces each) salmon filet, lightly seasoned with salt
1/4 medium-size white onion, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup very thinly sliced seasonal fruit, such as pluots, plums or fava beans or peeled citrus sections
1/4 fresh fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2-3 sprigs of fresh tarragon, leaves finely chopped
Splash of dry white wine
1 teaspoon Pernod (licorice-flavored liqueur)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg yolk
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Fold each parchment sheet in half (like a book). Open parchment. Spread butter (or oil) in a small area next to the fold on one side of each sheet (about 4-by4-inches). Place rice next to fold (on the butter) in an elongated rectangle the same length as the salmon. Place salmon next to rice.
2. In a medium bowl, toss onion, fruit, fennel, juice and tarragon; spoon mixture between rice and fish. Add wine and Pernod on top and around fish on paper, keeping it next to and on ingredients (do not let run off paper). Add a little salt and pepper.
3. Watch the video; it’s easy once you see the steps. Brush egg yolk around edge of paper and press to seal like a closed book. Fold parchment to seal making several partially-overlapping folds (when complete each will be shaped like half of a heart). The first small fold should be at a 90 degree angle. Be sure each fold overlaps the one before it so that there are no gaps. The last fold needs to be folded 2 or 3 times. At this point it can be refrigerated up to 3 hours in advance.
4. Place paper onto rimmed baking sheet. Please baking sheet on stove (at high heat) for about 15 seconds, for liquids to heat. Immediately place into oven for 8 to 10 minutes, depending on thickness of fish and desired doneness. Remove from oven and carefully transfer to plates. Open paper in front of guest (or have them do it).
Source: David Pratt, executive chef-owner Brick, San Clemenente
Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s
Try this Turkish Breakfast, a cinch-to-make hummus paired with sliced tomatoes, cucumber, olives and whole-wheat toast.
Add a slab of watermelon and serve it for a luscious eat-every-bite dinner.
Or serve it as a communal first course – kind of a party platter.
Yield: 8 servings
2 cups cooked or canned garbanzo beans, drained (reserve liquid)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
2 tablespoons tahini, see cook’s notes
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground paprika or ground cumin (or both)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
6 tomatoes, cored, sliced
1 cucumber, peeled if you like, sliced
1/2 cup green or black olives, pitted
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
For serving: whole-grain toast, cut into triangles
Cook’s notes: Tahini is a paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds. It is sold at natural food stores and supermarkets with large specialty sections.
1. Combine the garbanzos, 1 tablespoon oil, tahini, juice, paprika (and/or cumin) and salt in food processor. Puree until very smooth, adding some garbanzo liquid if needed. Taste and adjust seasoning.
2. Arrange tomato and cucumber slices on large platter. Add olives and a large dollop of the bean mixture. Sprinkle everything with a drizzle of remaining 1 tablespoon oil, salt, pepper and parsley. Serve with toast.
Nutrition information (per serving using 1/3 cup hummus and 1 slice whole wheat toast): 299 calories, 12 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 42 g carbohydrates, 10 g protein, 768 mg sodium, 8 g fiber
Source: “Eat Vegan Before 6:00” by Mark Bittman (Clarkson Potter, $26)