Still high on the Boat Street recipes, I had to make this one too. The presentation is just so cool! You get a little wrapped package on your plate to open and when you open it, a gentle steam laden with scents of saffron and cilantro wafts out to meet you. And the flavors equal the exotic scents. This is a fairly easy dish to prepare and would be fantastic for company because you can do all the prep work ahead and then just put it in the oven to cook while you drink wine with your guests. You can use any fairly dense white fish. In the class, we had true cod which I couldn’t find the day I was looking so I used halibut, which was delicious. I used the large Israeli couscous which they have in bulk at the PCC and the only other note about this recipe is that in the class, Susan Kaplan, the chef/teacher, said to make the chermoula (the topping for the fish) really sharp and salty. Mine did turn out to be very much so and I was a little worried it would be overwhelming, but it wasn’t. So, trust the recipe. It’ll taste too strong by itself, but turns out just fine on the fish. You’ll also probably have leftover chermoula which goes well on lots of things, so save it until the right use strikes you. (It added a zesty note to my leftover chana dal that my neighbor and I loved so much, we gobbled it all up!)
1 hour to prepare, 40 of that active
For the Chermoula:
2 lemons, zest and some of the juice
1 1/2 dried chiles, (I used chile de arbol)
1/2 cup olive oil (you might use less)
1/2 tsp saffron in 2 tsp water
1 tbsp powdered cumin
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 bunch cilantro (about 1 cup leaves)
1/4 bunch fresh mint (about 1/2 cup leaves)
-Crush zest, garlic, salt, chiles, and cumin together with a mortar and pestle. Add saffron and make a paste. Mix this with enough oil and lemon juice to reach desired consistency (for me, this meant it wasn’t runny, but wasn’t a paste either, it had a little flow to it. I used the juice from 1 1/2 lemons and about 1/4 cup oil and then I added a little more oil after I added the herbs). Chop herbs by hand and stir in. Add more juice or oil as needed and season so the Chermoula is extremely sharp and salty. Set aside.
Fish in parchment:
3-5 oz fish per serving (small fillets and skin removed)
cherry tomatoes (4-6 per serving, cut in half)
Israeli couscous-cooked, with a little butter or olive oil (I used 1 cup raw couscous and this was plenty for 4 servings)
-Cut 1 piece of about 12″ x 12″ parchment paper per serving and cut an arm’s length of twine for each and have on hand for preparation. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
-Place 1/2 cup couscous on parchment square, place fish on top of couscous, smear heavily with Chermoula, top with cut tomatoes. Pull two opposite corners together, fold from the point down around 1/2″ and keep folding until all of the slack has been taken up.
Use fingernails to help keep the crease of the folds. Then fold each of the remaining ends so that a point is formed (as in wrapping a package). Bring the two points over the packet and tie with a string. Bake for 15-20 minutes and check one for doneness. Cook longer if needed, my halibut took about 30 minutes total because the fillets were pretty thick. Serve in the package for you and your guests to open at the table.