Category Archives: Fish

Poachie Paks


Poor Christine, who loves to cook, is currently without an oven as she and Chuck renovate Edgewood Manor.  In the face of this kitchen deficiency, she’s been forced to creatively prepare delicious and healthful meals using her stovetop and a (rather substantial) toaster oven.  Because, like me, she loves to eat almost as much as she loves to cook, she’s come up with some real winning dishes, and some that are extremely appropriate for weeknight (read: easy) preparation.  She asked me to showcase one of her favorite new things, which is more of a method of cooking than anything:  Poachie Paks.

In French cooking, they call this method en papillote, which I think means, “in paper,” or “in envelope.”  Basically, you put all of the food you will eat in a meal onto a piece of parchment paper or aluminium foil, fold it closed, and seal it tightly.  If you are careful to make sure everything is the right size to cook at the same time, this method of cooking will serve you very well.  The prep work is the key; cook time can be very quick, depending on your ingredients.  

You can cook just about anything in a poachie pak, but I think fish, seafood, and vegetables are particularly good choices, because they cook so fast.  Martha Stewart has whole sections of her website devoted to cooking en papillote, so if you want some additional ideas, I would have a look there.  For me, I want everything to come out tasting fresh, but somehow connected as a composed dish; herbs and seasonings lend a strong hand in bringing everything together.  For the version I present here, dill and garlic both play a role in perfuming all of the ingredients.  It is probably just the basic physics of flavor, steam, and aroma, but I think there is a little magic that happens inside these little parcels when you put them in the oven.  Have a look at the before and after:

Poachie Pak Before

Poachie Pak Before

Poachie Pak After

Poachie Pak After

I don’t really know if I can write a full recipe for this, but here is how I put these together (for two poachie paks):  fold two large squares of parchment paper in half diagonally and place 2 to 3 layers of yukon gold potato slices (one medium potato sliced very thinly with a mandoline) on one side of each fold.  Season with salt, pepper and a little olive oil.  Then, layers go down like this, for each pak:  handful of spinach, three slices of lemon, few sprigs of dill, one salmon portion, then a mixture of chopped garlic and parsley, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon on top of the fish; scatter bay scallops around.  Seal poachie pak by folding over the free section and crimping the edges together.  Sometimes, this is enough to seal it, but I needed to use a stapler this time – maybe had a few too many ingredients?  Regardless, they were delicious.  If you have ideas of food combinations for future poachie paks, please share!

Grilled Indian-Spiced Halibut


Grilled Indian-Spiced Halibut
I can’t really pinpoint when I started enjoying Indian food, but I am sure that it was in college.  Where my mum was adventurous with fruits and veggies, “ethnic” food was not really ever on the menu in my household.  We had Chinese food, but only on rare occasions and only when my dad was not around.  Honestly, I cannot even tell you where there is an Indian restaurant near where I grew up.  Maybe there is one there today.  Regardless, once I was exposed to the saucy, richly-spiced entrees of Indian cuisine, I was hooked.  Part of me just loved the absolutely amazing flavors of these foods, but then part of me started to dig deeper into what I was tasting.  This was well before I knew what tumeric, coriander, fenugreek, and cardamom tasted like on their own, so it was difficult for me to distinguish flavors in the individual dishes.  Only through acquiring these spices, then tasting and smelling them each in turn was I able to figure out just how complex Indian food can be.  

If you are new to creating Indian food, but are eager to learn, I think that there are probably three good pieces of advice I can give you.  First, if you have an Indian friend who likes to cook, I think that is an excellent place to start – ask them if they will show you how to create a basic dish sometime.  You bring the wine and some of the ingredients for dinner.  My dear friend Neena is an amazing chef, and she gets most of the credit for the success of any Indian-inspired dish I make.  She’s the best possible cooking companion – capable, adventurous, and patient.  If you know Neena, I suggest you ask her to cook with you sometime; you’ll be so pleased you did.

Second, I think it is truly important to read up on the ingredients that go into Indian food – you might start with any of the cookbooks by Madhur Jaffrey.  I think that Julie Sahni’s books are supposed to be useful, as well.  Reading through some recipes will allow you to gain an understanding of technique.  You’ll begin to notice that, like stirfry cooking, there is a formula to many dishes that remains constant.  Start with something that looks easy and decide to make it for yourself and someone who loves you – don’t be afraid!  Just have a take out menu handy, in case.  =)  

Third, you should find an Indian market and fearlessly go forth into the aisles upon aisles of exotic ingredients.  The best way to do this is on a full stomach (like any food shopping) and with no preconceived notions of what to expect.  Have a list of things you want to buy (from the recipe you are planning to make that night) and get all of them, plus a few other things that look interesting to you, be they spices or a new kind of bean, or even some kind of fruit or vegetable.  The point of it is that you should gradually build a pantry of ingredients; don’t feel like you have to get everything all at once.  Part of the experience of shopping in ethnic markets is knowing that you’ll be back to buy something new next time (or you’ll find out that the place on the other side of town is cheaper).   

Okay, enough preaching – for those of you who love the flavors of Indian food, but have no idea where to begin, this may be a good place to start.  Though this is not an Indian dish, per se, it captures some of the flavors you might be craving.  If you buy these spices, you’ll be on your way to building a good little spice rack, and you’ll find them in a myriad of Indian recipes.   

Grilled Indian-Spiced Halibut

Fish Tacos


Fish Taco

Fish Taco

Whenever I think about making tacos, I start to imagine what people from my childhood used to do for “taco night,” and I shudder a little.  I just picture walking into the supermarket, picking up a box of stale taco shells, a packet of seasoning, and some fatty ground beef.  Don’t get me wrong, I think my taste buds are doing a little dance right now thinking about that spicy grease dribbling down my chin, but my ticker just slowed a little at the prospect of that dinner.  Equally frightening and tasty are some of the traditional Mexican preparations of fish tacos, which often incorporate fried chunks of firm whitefish with soft tortillas and a spicy, creamy sauce.  When our lovely friend recently suggested we make Fish Tacos together for dinner one night, I envisioned the cast iron filled with peanut oil and admittedly balked.  I decided that there must be a way to make them without frying, surely.  On a whim, I reviewed some recipes on Epicurious and found a good number that used firm fish sauteed, then flaked into small pieces.  The key, it seemed, was a brief marinating period before cooking.  With a chunky Avocado-Mango Guacsa (not to get too Rachael Ray on you with the hybrid word), I didn’t think anyone would miss the creamy sauce, or the frying, for that matter.  The result?  A pretty incredible dinner.  Our party was quite pleased and it wasn’t long before we were making them again!