I spend so much time waiting for Spring asparagus every year that I love doing many things with it for the peak weeks. Sometimes, it's simply steamed and wrapped with Prosciutto or Jamón Ibérico (thank you, Gam, it's stunning!!) and covered with a two-minute poached egg. Other times, they become the very important supporting ingredient in a wonderful main course like this "Red Snapper and Asparagus en Papillote" that I created recently.
I don't know which is more succulent; the fish or the asparagus. But, they were both delicious.
If you haven't tried cooking fish in parchment paper before, it is honestly very simple and one of the tastiest, juiciest results for your fish. You use at least some kind of acid, some kind of oil, some aromatics and some seasoning to get great flavor into the fish. I also put various kinds of tender and flavorful vegetables with the fish. Then you toss liquids, aromatics and veggies together and put the vegetables down first and the fish on top. Drizzle with more liquids, season and a couple thin pats of butter. Wrap it up like a package and then bake it. The technique is steaming the food inside the paper and it comes out perfectly cooked, moist and full of whatever lovely flavors are inside the package. If you like doing fish at home, this is a must-try technique!
2 Red Snapper fillets or any white or pink delicate fish fillet
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. Chinese Five-Spice powder
1 bunch tender spring asparagus, washed and trimmed
1/2 ripe tomato cut into paper-thin slices
1 lemon; 1/2 juiced and 1/2 cut into paper-thin slices
2 chives, minced
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 fennel fronds
2 tarragon stems
1/2 T. tarragon leaves, minced
1 T. butter, thinly sliced
2 T. dry white wine
1. Preheat oven to 325˚F. Season the fish with salt, pepper and Chinese 5-Spice powder on all sides.
2. In a bowl, toss together the asparagus, tomato, chives, 2 T. olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper and juice from half a lemon.
3. Tear off two large pieces of parchment paper and fold in half, creasing well. Make sure one fillet will fit completely inside the paper when folded. Brush the paper with 1 T. olive oil per paper. Spoon the asparagus and tomatoes onto the middle of one side of the paper. Next, place the fennel fronds and tarragon stems on top of the vegetables. Lay one fish fillet on top of each pile of vegetables, lengthwise so that the fish is parallel to the crease in your paper. Sprinkle minced tarragon on top of the fish, place the lemon and butter slices on top of that and sprinkle both fillets with the white wine, 1 T. per fillet.
4. Fold the top half of the paper over your pile of vegetables and fish and begin rolling and crimping the paper so that it will hold together and make a nice half-moon or heart-shaped package. I've got a photo of that from a previous post.
5. Place the packages on a large rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, depending on your oven and thickness of fillets. Remove the packages from the oven and slit them with a knife to let the steam escape. Serve immediately from the package or remove and plate. One note: remove the fennel and tarragon stems before eating. They're only there for flavor and are too tough to eat.
Have fun and enjoy the flavors of Spring at their most tender and moist!