I introduced this dish at a recent dinner party and it was a big success. The idea is that everyone receives a plate with a little parchment paper packet. When they cut it open all of the flavors escape and they find the surprise inside. Here’s how to put it together. Other types of fish such as snapper or salmon are suitable as well for this preparation.
Ingredients (serves 4-6):
-2 pounds halibut
-1 cup preferred olives
-1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
Take 3 different types of your favorite olives (such as picholine, nicoise and Greek – you’ll need about a cup), the rind of 2 lemons (just the yellow part, cut into thin strips), one garlic clove (chopped coarsely) and 3 sprigs of fresh thyme. In a medium size pot heat 1/2 cup of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sautee for 1 minute (do not brown). Add all of the other items and cook–stirring frequently–for 2 minutes. Set aside.
On the same day you intend to serve the dish go to your fishmonger and buy the freshest fish possible. I like to use Wild Halibut but take whatever is most fresh. I’d stick to a white fleshy fish such as halibut or sea bass. However, even black cod or mahi mahi would work well. For 4-6 people I’d get about two pounds of fish. This is after all intended to be a small package.
Go to a good market of cooking store and buy a roll of brown, unbleached parchment paper. If you cannot find any then you can use aluminum foil but the presenation is not as interesting.
ASSEMBLING AND COOKING THE DISH
Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees. Cut a large square piece of parchment paper for each serving (you’ll want to have enough room to plate the fish and wrap the package up). Cut your fish into individual serving pieces and season lightly with salt. Place a piece of fish in the center of each parchment package. Using a spoon place a good dollop of confit on top of each fish. Be sure and add a bit of oil too as this will help keep the fish moist. Add a little more extra virgin olive oil on top. The fish should be coated in oil but not soaking in it. Add a bit of white wine to create a steaming environment, perhaps 1/2 cup.
Carefully fold each package together on all sides and bring together at the top and seal by folding the paper. Place each packet into a roasting or baking dish and insert into the oven for approximately 10-15 minutes. Check for doneness after 10 minutes. Carefully open one package and insert a knife into the fish. If it goes through easily the dish is ready. To plate place a parchment package on each dish and cut it open using a sharp knife. Garnish with a fresh sprig of thyme.
James is a food writer and Bay Area chef who owns and runs a private dinner party and cooking class business specializing in regional Italian and Spanish cuisine. See CookWithJames.com