Finfish and Vegetables en Papillote
Thaw fish, if frozen. Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.Advertisement
For fish packet:
Cut 4 pieces of parchment paper or brown paper into 14x14-inch pieces. Fold each paper in half crosswise to form a 14x7-inch rectangle. From folded side, draw half of a heart shape on the paper the same as if you were making a valentine. Using kitchen shears, cut along the line, then open the heart. Set aside.
To prepare fennel, cut about 1 inch above the bulb; discard the stalks. If you like, reserve some of the feathery tops for garnish. Remove any wilted outer layers and cut a thin slice from the fennel base. Wash fennel and cut into quarters lengthwise; remove core. Using a thin blade of a mandoline slicer or a food processor fitted with a slicing blade, cut into 1/8-inch thick slices (you should have 2 cups).
To prepare zucchini, cut in half lengthwise. Using thin blade of the mandoline or food processor, cut into 1/8-inch slices (you should have 1-1/2 cups).
To assemble papillotes, open each heart and place 1 fillet on half of each parchment heart. Arrange one-fourth of the fennel, zucchini, tomatoes, and red onion over each fillet. Drizzle oil and wine evenly over each fillet and vegetables; sprinkle each with basil. Top each with 1 fresh herb sprig. Refold each paper heart over fillet mixture along its original fold line. Bring the cut edges together. (Although a round or oval shape can be used, the heart is the classic shape for a papillote. The name comes from the French word papillon, which means "butterfly.")
To seal, turn up the cut edges of each heart and fold, then fold again, forming the second fold on top of the first fold. Fold only a small section at a time to ensure a tight seal. When you reach the bottom, twist the tip of the heart to seal, forming a tight packet. Fold point of heart shape under to hold in place. Secure with a sanitized paper clip. (The secret to a beautifully puffed papillote is a tight seal.) Transfer packets to a large cookie sheet or shallow baking pan.
Bake in 375 degree F oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until paper slightly puffs up and fish is opaque, but still moist throughout (fish just begins to flake easily). Carefully open the paper to check doneness. Immediately transfer the bundles to individual plates. Carefully cut open top of paper. Discard thyme sprigs. Sprinkle fish with parsley or cilantro and additional salt and pepper, if you like. Serve immediately with hot cooked rice. Makes 4 servings.
If you like, substitute 1 medium carrot and 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced for the 1 large fennel bulb.
Cooking in paper - en papillote - is a simple yet elegant method of cooking. Heated briefly in the paper package, the flavors of the fish and vegetables mingle. When the package is opened, an aromatic puff of steam escapes, revealing fish cooked to perfection.