Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Black Bass En Papillote & PranQster

As this first post lands right on the tail end of Spring, I've been spending lots of time lately thinking about the flavors and colors of this bountiful season.  The farmers markets and purveyor stalls are suddenly bursting with a dazzling array of vibrant green produce.  It is a chef's (and eaters) favorite time of year!

All this available bounty calls for preparations that are simple and clean and that highlight the ingredients in their own right.   The technique of cooking "en papillote" (in parchment) is a one such example.  Originating in France in the 17th century, this method requires the ingredients to be carefully wrapped in a pouch of parchment and gently steamed.  It's a very easy but elegant way to cook seafood as the aromatics of all the ingredients are infused delicately throughout the fish, keeping it moist and light.

An added bonus is the presentation.  Served straight from the oven, the pouches seem like small gifts set before each diner.  The act of swiftly cutting the tops off each package and watching (and smelling!) the fragrant plumes of steam waft upwards only adds flare.  I serve this often to colleagues and friends alike and it never fails to impress!

I chose a nice Black Sea Bass from Isaacson & Stein Fish Company Black Sea Bass, a white, flakey fish, lends itself well to the en papillote technique as its lean meat needs to stay moist.  It pairs very well with a good Belgian, like North Coast's Prankster as the yeast elements play nicely with the fish's delicacy.

I also happened upon some beautiful Spring onion bulbs and a bunch of lively, fresh spinach at the Green City Market.  Our dear friends in California had recently sent us a care package of beautiful, home grown lemons from their backyard tree.  Clearly the Springtime Gods were feeling generous!

Black Bass En Papillote

1 Whole black bass (using pre deboned fillets is also fine)
1 Head of garlic
8 Spring onion bulbs
1 Lemon (sliced thin)
1 Bunch fresh spinach
¼ Lbs butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1c. Fish stock (reduce by a quarter if using fillets instead of a whole fish)
Salt and pepper

Extra kitchen tools:
2 - 16x16 in. pieces of parchment paper
2-  4in pieces of butchers twine to tie the parchment pouches

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  • Butcher the fish into fillets and de bone. Rinse well and refrigerate.
  • Wrap garlic head in foil and roast for 45 minutes (let it cool before combining with fish)
  • Clean and remove the tops of onion bulbs.  Toss the bulbs in 1 Tbsp olive oil.  Place them on a sheet pan and roast for 25 minutes.

For Fish Stock:

  • Toss the fish bones and onion scraps in 1 Tbsp olive oil, place on a sheet pan and roast for 20 min.  Remove from oven
  •   Place in a small pot and add 2 C. water and bring to a slow simmer. Skim frequently and reducing to about 1/4 cup

To Assemble the Pouches:

  • Cut large sheets of parchment paper about 16 in. x 16 in
  • Divide spinach into two portions and place in the center of each sheet of parchment paper. Lay 3 slices of lemon over each pile of spinach followed by the roasted onion bulbs. Cut garlic head in half and squeeze roast garlic cloves on top Add 3 Tbsp of butter on each pile of vegetables 
  • Season the bass fillets with generous amounts of salt and pepper and lay them, skin side up, on top of each pile
  • Take each corner of the parchment and bring together, tying with butchers twine to create a pouch.   Be sure that it is sealed well. (Tip: If there are loose flaps that do not seal completely, use a household stapler To secure)
  • Place in oven for 14 minutes

For Sauce:

  • Reheat the fish stock in a saucepan and whisk in 2 Tbsp butter, letting it thicken slightly over medium heat.  Season with salt and pepper.
  • Place pouches in bistro or low lipped bowl and cut the tops table side, spooning the sauce overtop.  
  •  Spoon sauce into the bottom of the dish and plate beginning with spinach and finishing with fish

Pairing Notes

North Coast PranQster
Belgian Golden Ale 7.6% ABV

This yeast forward Belgian ale is a great pairing with a light summery fish dish.   North Coast Brewery is particularly driven when it comes to perfecting their yeast strain and the success of their efforts is obvious when the balance of this beer and its fruity aromatics, citrusy hop notes and crisp clean finish is noted. The beer pours a golden bronze color with a light haze. Up front there are fruity aromatics that are reminiscent of orange marmalade with a light bready background.  The flavor comes through with a maltyness to balance the yeast esters notes of spice, pear, and citrus.

It is a wonderful pair for this dish because the roasted garlic and onions mimic the notes of the malty base. The citrus from the lemon highlight the hop notes and even out the yeast.  The light fish flavor is elevated from the spice and fruitiness the yeast gives.  Additionally, the light carbonation of this beer rejuvenates your palate, ensuring each bite is fresh.

No comments :

Post a Comment