This looks fancier than it is and, better yet, most of the work can be done ahead of time. Chef Bill Smith of Crook’s Corner serves it to diners, paper and all, to open at the table.
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup diced celery
½ cup diced onion
1 cup long-grain rice
½ cups milk, divided
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup drained and diced pickled jalapeño peppers
4 13×30-inch sheets kitchen parchment
Olive oil or butter for brushing
4 5–6-ounce fish fillets, at least 1 inch thick
Salt and pepper
softened to spreadable (recipe follows)
1 lemon, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons persimmon purée
1 stick unsalted butter,
softened to room temperature
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground toasted cumin seed
Pinch or two coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped cilantro
Zest of 1 lemon
Fish Baked in Paper
- Melt butter in skillet (it needn’t be clarified) over medium heat. Add diced celery and onion and sauté until soft, then add raw rice. Increase heat slightly and continue cooking until rice begins to color.
- Add 3 cups milk, 1 cup at a time. Note: You will need to stir constantly at this point. Once rice absorbs all milk, it should be nearly done. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and remaining milk. Lastly fold in peppers. Cool rice completely—even stick pan in freezer if there’s room.
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
- Place baking sheet large enough to hold all 4 fish portions in oven.
- Fold each piece of parchment in half and then brush 1 side of each sheet lightly with oil or butter. Place ¼ cooled rice in flat oval on 1 side of fold in center of each sheet of parchment. Place fillet on top of rice and season with salt and pepper. Spread each fillet generously with persimmon butter, then top with lemon slices, about 4 per fish. Close each piece of parchment over fish as if it were a book. Starting at one end of the crease, make small, tight overlapping folds all the way around paper. Use enough of a margin that no steam will escape during the cooking.
- Remove sheet from oven and arrange packages on hot baking pan. Cook for 10–12 minutes at least. The time varies according to thickness of fish, amount of moisture rice releases, etc. When done, parchments should be puffy and full of steam and maybe paper will have begun to brown.
- Place packages on 4 dinner plates and serve at table. Guests should open by tearing centers open, not by unfolding them. You may need to pierce paper with knife or fork to get started.
- Mix purée into butter with fork.
- Fold in remaining ingredients. Don’t mix for too long, as you want salt to stay crunchy.
- Form into a log, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until ready to use.
- from Chef Bill Smith Of Chapel Hill, North Carolina