Black Cod en Papillote
Red Lentils & Leek, Carrot, Yellow Squash, Zucchini
Saffron Cream Sauce
Recently we gave a local upscale restaurant another chance. The place has a spectacular view of the Pacific and a bold imaginative menu. Unfortunately, though pleasant enough, the service misses the mark lacking attention to detail. And while there is nothing wrong with the food per se, the kitchen cannot seem to execute the dishes that sound so wonderful. They arrive at the table lacking finesse and vibrancy. One of the items that sounded promising was a seabass en papillote. The concept was terrific but the dish sadly, was just average, which then prompted me to recreate it at home.
This Black Cod en Papillote turns out to be a fabulous dish for entertaining with panache. All the components can be prepped ahead of time, just let everything come to room temperature, assemble on the parchment paper, crimp, and bake. Simply lift the packets from the baking sheet to the dinner plate. Serve warm saffron cream sauce on the side. The uniqueness of serving the entire main course in parchment plus the addition of a fresh green salad makes this a delightful meal to serve to company.
I like to use a fish with high fat content for baking in parchment. Since the wrapped fish cannot be checked for doneness without opening the package, the fat offers a buffer against overcooking. Black cod is a certified sustainable seafood and also excellent for this preparation. Its silky rich meat with a distinctive sweet flavor and flaky texture is perfect cooked “en papillote.”
Cooking fish and vegetables en papillote is traditional, but it’s the red lentils that provide a surprising layer of flavor and texture, perfect for soaking up the juices. In the sealed package the flavors and perfume of the four vegetables – carrots, leeks, yellow squash and zucchini – mingle with the cod. Finally, the saffron cream sauce is an adaptation from vegan Chef Tal Ronnen. It is dairy-free and has no cholesterol. Just a couple tablespoons add a bright exotic note. It can be made ahead, and gently reheated.
Black Cod en Papillote Recipe
- 1 c. split red lentils, sorted, rinsed
- 1 1/2 c. vegetable stock
- 2 garlic cloves, mashed
- olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste
Bring the stock plus garlic to a boil. Add the lentils, bring to a boil, then simmer for approximately 15 minutes until the lentils are cooked and begin to disintegrate. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and season to taste.
- yellow squash
Cut the vegetables into even, thin strips. Sauté the carrot and leek briefly in a small amount of olive oil. When the carrot begins to soften and the leek begins to brown, remove from heat and toss in the yellow squash and zucchini. Season to taste.
Saffron Cream Sauce
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 small shallot minced
- 1/2 c. dry white wine
- 1 c. cashew cream
- 1 generous pinch saffron threads
- 1 T. nutritional yeast flakes
- 2 T. Earth Balance
In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, sauté shallot in olive oil until soft but not brown. Add wine then reduce by half. Add cream, yeast, and saffron whisking constantly for 5 minutes. Finish the sauce by slowly whisking in Earth Balance (vegan butter substitute) off heat. Season to taste, serve warm.
Cut parchment paper into pieces large enough to wrap the fish with room to crimp. Let all ingredients come to room temperature. Rub skinless, boneless 6 oz. black cod fillets with a very light coat of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place red lentil mash in the center of a piece of parchment paper. Top with vegetables, then fish. Crimp the packet closed with the seam along the top – this way, guests can easily eat right out of the bag. Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes. Place the puffed-up packet on dinner plate and serve immediately. Have guests un-crimp their own parchment, enjoying the steamy aromas. Pass the warm saffron cream sauce on the side.