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Culinary Odyssey: Parchment packet highlights grouper's flavor
Culinary Odyssey appears Wednesday. Salim Ben Mami is head chef and owner of Café Collage restaurant in Oregon House.
While visiting Florida and the Bahamas last week, I developed a great appreciation for the grouper fish. I decided to create a recipe that will pay tribute to the natural flavors of this fish.
There are about 21 species of grouper found in the Caribbean and along the coast of Florida. An interesting characteristic is that grouper begins its life as female and later transforms into male between the age of 7 and 14.
I ordered this fish in various restaurants, and I often felt that the preparation did not match the potential refinement of the fish’s texture and flavor.
Lately, I have been using parchment paper (en papillote) for baking any delicate fish in a packet with different toppings. The result has been incomparable to any other approach, such as pan frying or deep frying.
This particular technique helps preserve all the flavors and maintains an ongoing exchange between the fish and the topping while baking.
At Café Collage, we will be serving different kinds of fish en papillote weekly.
GROUPER FISH EN PAPILLOTE
- 1⁄2 red onion, peeled and diced
- 6 organic grape tomatoes, diced (reserve the tomato juice)
- 1 small pineapple, peeled and diced
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
- 1⁄4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 2 pounds fresh grouper fish (found mainly in fish markets), cut into 4 equal potions
- Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
- 1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the parchment paper to a 9- by 12-inch size. In a bowl, combine the onions, tomatoes, pineapple, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice and cilantro together.
Place the portioned fish on the parchment paper. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the tomato mixture on top of each piece of fish and drizzle with the olive oil.
Carefully wrap the parchment paper around the fish, making sure the ends of the paper are either twisted or folded underneath. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how well done you like your fish.
Remove from the oven, but do not open the parchment paper until the meal is served.
Ideally, you can eat the fish while still in the paper. Or you can transfer the fish to a plate with all the juices. I would recommend steamed jasmine or basmati rice to complement this dish.