Portuguese-Style Cod and Beans en Papillote

Makes 1 serving, but multiplies easily En papillote, French for “in a pouch,” is a way of cooking that’s fascinated me ever since I first tried it. It’s essentially oven-steaming, which doesn’t sound very glam, but it’s one of the simplest and most efficient ways to mix and bring out flavors. Sealing the ingredients in a bundle — I use parchment, but foil works too — means the flavors and aromas have no place to go but deeper into each other. The technique works for fish and shellfish, small pieces of poultry, vegetables and fruits. Here I’m making what could be a big-pot braise in miniature. Enclosing the cod with white beans, herbs and tomatoes in a white wine sauce (I use the word “sauce” very, very loosely) flavored with smoked paprika and garlic creates a dish that bends toward Portugal.

I’ve given you directions for making a single packet, so that you can multiply this construction project as many times as you want — the number will depend on the space you’ve got in your oven. You can make and refrigerate the packages ahead of time, but once baked, the papillotes should not be kept waiting. I like to serve this in shallow soup plates or bowls. The best way is to bring the packs to the table and let each person open his or her own — that first burst of aroma is fabulous.

PORTUGUESE-STYLE COD AND BEANS EN PAPILLOTE is excerpted from EVERYDAY DORIE © 2018 by Dorie Greenspan. Photography © 2018 by Ellen Silverstein. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup (87 grams) cooked or canned cannellini beans, rinsed, drained and patted dry
  • 1 garlic clove, germ removed (see note) and slivered
  • 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • About 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (sweet or hot)
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 lemon slices
  • 3 slices from a small to medium tomato
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 scallion, white and light green parts only, cut into 1-inch lengths, or 3 tablespoons chopped spring or white onion, rinsed and patted dry
  • One 5-ounce (142-gram) cod fillet, with or without skin, at or close to room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon white wine

Steps

Step 1

WORKING AHEAD: You can make the packets and refrigerate them for up to 8 hours ahead. Remove before you preheat the oven.

Step 2

Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, foil or a silicone baking mat. Cut a 15-inch (or close) square piece of parchment or foil, and have kitchen twine at hand.

Step 3

Mix the beans, half of the garlic, the balsamic and ½ tablespoon of the olive oil together in a small bowl. Stir in a generous pinch of paprika and season with salt and pepper. Taste and add more balsamic, paprika, salt and/or pepper, if you’d like.

Step 4

Place the sheet of parchment or foil on the counter. Start building the dish in the center of the packet: Lay down a slice of lemon, top with 2 slices of tomato and a sprig of thyme and season with salt and pepper. Spoon on the bean mixture and scatter over half of the scallion or onion. Rub the cod with some paprika, salt and pepper and nestle it into the beans. Scatter over the remaining garlic slivers and scallion (or onion). Top with the remaining tomato, lemon and thyme and, once again, season with salt and pepper. Pour over the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the wine. Lift up the edges of the paper or foil to make a kind of hobo’s sack and tie it tightly at the “neck,” leaving a couple of inches between the ingredients and where you’re securing the bundle. Put the packet on the baking sheet. (The packet can be prepared up to 8 hours ahead and kept in the refrigerator; let it sit on the counter while you preheat the oven.)

Step 5

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the fish is opaque at the center; poke it with a paring knife and peek in. If your fillet was under 5 ounces, check at 12 minutes; if it was heavier or cold, check at 15 — you might need a minute or two longer. Because you’re steaming the fish, the risk of overcooking is minimal.

Step 6

Serve the packet immediately, paying attention when you open it — the initial puff of steam is very hot. Wonderfully fragrant too.

Step 7

STORING: There is no keeping this dish once it is cooked.

Cook Notes

A note on onions, shallots and garlic To help get all the good flavor from onions and shallots, I take a quick extra step at prep time. After I’ve sliced or chopped them, I rinse them under cold water and then pat them dry. The short rinse washes away the bitter liquid that’s drawn out when you cut them. If I’m using the onion (or shallot) raw in a salad, I sometimes rinse it and then let the slices sit in a bowl of cold water — the chill gives them added crunch.

Unless I’m using whole garlic cloves, smashed or otherwise, I always cut each peeled clove in half the long way so that I can chisel out the green germ that runs the length of it. I learned this trick years ago when I was working with the chef Daniel Boulud, who had learned it years before when he was an apprentice in France. Removing the germ tones down garlic’s brashest flavors, and it may make the garlic more easily digestible — the jury’s still out on that.

photo by Ellen Silverman