Tag Archives: weeknight dinner

Fresh fish en papillote

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A clean, citrus-infused piece of white fish is now what I crave on an evening when I want to feel not just fed, but nourished. I discovered a version of this meal while doing an 8-week workout challenge with a group of friends at the office, and gravitated towards the two major ingredients: lemon and ginger. I’ve tended to avoid baking fish at home because I always think it’s going to make our modest apartment smell like a Red Lobster (no offense to the home of fried fish). However, I took the time to make an extra stop at our local Santa Monica Seafood to get something that was actually fresh and I think that’s the key to a fishy-smell-free kitchen. That day it was Pacific Rockfish, but just go with anything that is wild caught and hasn’t been frozen.

I also love this dish because it’s so simple to assemble, and yet comes out looking very impressive for guests. ( I’ll take any chance I can get to look like a culinary sage when I’ve spent less than an hour moving around the kitchen primarily focused on drinking pre-dinner wine) You can transfer the pouches straight onto plates and let your diners open them to get that initial waft of citrus and herb. It’s also pretty difficult to overcook since the fish gently steams in the pouch. I’ve definitely left it in the oven for a few extra minutes and no one has been the wiser.

You could opt out of the potatoes in favor of less starchy vegetables, but I like to make a few extra to soak up the fresh, bright broth that develops in the parchment. It’s very important that you use parchment paper, rather than foil, for recipes like this one that include acidic ingredients. Though I haven’t tried it, I’m told combining foil with ingredients like lemons, tomatoes or white wine will create a really bad taste. I’ll take their word for it.

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Baked Lemon-Ginger Fish in Parchment

Serves 2

2 cups spinach

1 shallot, thinly sliced

6 small red potatoes

Two filets of fresh white fish

1 Tbs ginger, grated

Juice of one lemon, extra slices for garnish

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut two pieces of parchment paper, fold in half vertically and place on a baking sheet. Spray the inside of the parchment pouch with cooking spray. The folded piece of parchment should cover about half the size of a half-sheet pan.

2. Boil potatoes until fork tender. Once cool enough to handle, cut them into slices and set aside.

3. Combine grated ginger, lemon juice, olive oil and parsley in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. It will look thick, almost like a pesto.

4. Layer spinach, sliced potatoes and sliced shallot onto one side of a piece of parchment. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

5. Season one side of the fish with salt and pepper, then lay on the bed of vegetables. Spoon half of the lemon-ginger-parsley mixture over the fish and top with a slice of lemon.

6. Starting at one side and working towards the other, roll and pinch the edges of the parchment paper together. Twist both ends of the pouch tightly so that the final pouch looks like a paper calzone. Repeat with the second piece of fish.

7. Bake pouches on a sheet pan at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Open and serve immediately.

Source: Adapted from Gunnar Challenge nutrition plan.

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Chicken Marbella

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I consistently reach for the big bowl of lemons on my counter and a handful of herbs whenever I decide on a “something chicken” dinner. Even though these components are simple, they are always the most satisfying to me. That is, until I tried Chicken Marbella.

This dish comes from Sheila Lukin’s iconic Silver Palate cookbook, and develops such a complexity with minimal effort. Lukin began incorporating Mediterranean flavors into her food when she started a catering business in the late 1970s. She then opened The Silver Palate food shop in New York Chicken Marbella was one of the first main dishes served at the shop.  See the full recipe here.

I was introduced to this dish a couple of years ago at a friend’s bachelorette weekend in Lake Tahoe. My friend’s sister marched into the cabin with about four Ziploc bags of  chicken parts marinating in olives, prunes, capers, garlic and spices. I hovered in the kitchen and watched as she added white wine and brown sugar to trays of chicken in the oven. The result was tender chicken in this unique, briny sauce complemented by the candy-like prunes. She spooned the chicken over herb cous cous and I have not forgotten it since.

To recreate this dish in a shorter amount of time on a weeknight, I used two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I’m normally all for the amplified flavor of bone-in, skin-on cuts of chicken, but for a quicker version this worked splendidly. The key with Chicken Marbella (and I can’t stress this enough) is to marinate overnight. Trust me on this one, you don’t want to shortchange yourself.

Note: If you opt for the boneless version, cooking will take about 30 minutes less. Just make sure the chicken’s internal temperature reads 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.