Sunday, September 9, 2012

Seafood en Papillote

As promised, y’all, here is a non-beef, perfect for the end of summer recipe! I don’t know what got into me last month… I posted way more beef recipes than I normally eat. Anyway, today is a fantastic dish. For you vegetarian (fish eating), dairy free and gluten free lovers out there, you’ll be extra happy! It’s fancy. It’s healthy (ish). It’s delicious. It’s Seafood en Papillote!

En Papillote: A French term meaning to cook in a paper envelope (parchment), and is pronounced “ahn poppy-yote.” In my kitchen it’s a term meaning “husband approved” since its cleanup is incredibly easy. You could use foil for the baking packet if you don’t have parchment available, and I will readily defend your sanity when the French food police show up at your door, baguette in hand in place of a nightstick.
I came across this recipe from a newsletter I signed up for recently called Tasting Table. Have you heard of this? Am I the last one in the world to subscribe? I could very easily be living under a rock out here in Okinawa, so you all are my barometers… I like the newsletter because it keeps me connected to the foodie world; since we don’t have TV out here and anything revolving around ‘gourmet’ and ‘farmer’s market’ is either non existent or not in English. One of the emails I received this week from Tasting Table is called Sous Chef Series, which seems to showcase an up and coming chef each week with one of their signature dishes. This week was Andrew Del Vecchio, a chef from New York.

As soon as I saw the picture of the dish and read the recipe, I about needed to replace my keyboard. Talk about Pavlov’s dogs! My reaction was instantaneous. This was a recipe that just screamed “Summer’s almost over! Hurry up and make me before the temperature drops!” After mopping up my floor, I headed straight to the commissary. My original intent was to try out the local fish market, but we needed so many other groceries I took a chance on the frozen fish section at the commissary. I was in luck! Normally they don’t have mussels, but it must have been fate for me to make this recipe because they had them available!
By reading the recipe it seems it should take about 30-40 minutes start to finish, but it does involve a lot of mincing, so that timeframe will depend on how awesome your knife skills are. I have some wicked sharp knives so I take my time doing those fine minces… I kind of like to keep the skin on my knuckles where it is. Start to finish it took me about an hour, and that was with taking my time with each step and taking pictures, too.

Oh, it was so good. SO GOOD. I’m almost in need of the BBQ style bib to manage the Pavlovian reaction just thinking about it! There were only a few things I will change for the next time I make it.

1.      Use less butter. It added a great flavor, but there was a ton of it floating in the final dish, and to help keep the overall dish a little healthier, I think I’ll cut it down from (original recipe calls for 4) the 3 tablespoons I used to 1 or 2 to still maintain flavor but cut some fat and calories.
2.      Add a little cornstarch to the final sauce before baking. I simmered the allotted 20 minutes, but the final sauce was a little thin for my taste.
3.      Incorporate some green vegetables in the pouch. Asparagus, zucchini, spinach, broccoli or brussel sprouts even… to boost vitamin content, fiber and add some taste and color. You might need to sauté these veggies before adding them to the pouch… I’ll need to experiment.
4.      Increase halibut and shrimp, and remove mussels. I’m not a huge fan of the texture of mussels and the ones I was able to get were already shelled and frozen, so maybe fresh and whole shell would be tastier. I love halibut and shrimp so I’d rather have more of those!

Don’t get me wrong, it was so delicious, but I’m always trying to incorporate veggies somehow. We accompanied our dinners with the last of summer’s corn on the cob and a small salad. Below is how I made it, with minimal adaptations from the original recipe. Please try it out, and comment with your thoughts and suggestions!

Seafood en Papillote

barely adapted from Andrew Del Vecchio’s recipe as seen on Tasting Table
makes 2 dinner sized servings

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 smallish shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Serrano pepper, most of the seeds removed and finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
7 sprigs of fresh thyme (leaves removed from 3 sprigs and finely chopped; 4 sprigs left whole)
1 cup white wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (or vegetable spread to make it dairy free)
14 grape tomatoes, quartered
12 ounces of halibut, skin and bones removed and cut into dice sized cubes
8-10 previously frozen mussels, thawed
            (If you can get fresh, scrub and debeard them well)
12 shrimp, 41/51 count shrimp, peeled and deveined
Baguette, 10 pieces sliced on a bias about 1 inch thick each
1 tablespoon butter (or vegetable spread to make it dairy free)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In a small sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic and pepper, and sauté for about 5 minutes, until they are soft. Add the wine and thyme, and simmer on medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the mixture has reduced in volume by three-quarters. Then add the butter and turn off the heat. Once the butter has melted, add in the tomatoes and stir to coat well. Set aside.

Heat oven to 400° F. Line a jelly roll pan with foil.

Take 2 squares of either parchment or foil, about 12 inches on each side. Fold once into a triangle, then unfold and place over a rimmed plate. Add half of each of the fish to the middle seam, and then pour half the tomato sauce over the fish. Place 2 sprigs of thyme on top, and crimp the edges closed, twisting slightly as you go to seal well. you should end up with a triangle-ish shaped pouch.

Place the pouch on the foil lined jelly roll pan, and repeat with remaining square and ingredients. Bake in oven for about 12-13 minutes.

While the fish is baking, prepare the baguette. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in the microwave and add in the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Brush a light coat onto both sides of each baguette slice. Toast on a grill pan or skillet over medium high heat about 2-3 minutes each side, until crunchy and golden brown. By the time they are finished, the fish should be as well.

Using tongs or a spatula, gently place the (very hot) packet into a bowl, and cut a corner off with scissors. Carefully empty into the bowl, and repeat with the other packet into its own bowl. Serve hot with warm baguette toasts.


  1. Everything about this recipe looks delicious! I'm a big seafood lover and all of the flavors look great together! You got my mouth watering!

  2. Thanks, Julia! This recipe is definitely on my list to make again soon.


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