Thai-Curry Butter Halibut Packets

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A good friend who comes over often for dinner says that although he’s eaten many great meals at my home, this is the best yet. Every time I make it, my guests scrape their plate, (actually, their parchment) clean.

When it comes to ease, dinner doesn’t get much easier than this. Prep the packets ahead and just pop them into the oven when ready to eat. And clean-up is a breeze. No messy pots or pans to wash.

Any recipe I come across that calls for Thai curry paste goes into my ‘Definitely Try” folder. The paste has so much flavor that it needs very few other ingredients for it to shine. In this case, only one other ingredient: butter.

Thai Red Curry Paste
If you want to make your own Thai red curry paste you’ll need coriander, peppercorns, lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves, cilantro, shallot, garlic, fresh chiles, and soaked dried chiles. Or, you can go on-line or into an Asian market (if you are lucky enough to live near one) and for under $5.00 purchase a package that will make this recipe at least 40 times. And once you buy it, you’ll find it’s also great on other foods. For example, mix it with a little butter, garlic and lime zest and rub it between the skin and the meat on chicken pieces before cooking them.

About the mushrooms
I tried this recipe with oyster and trumpet mushrooms and love their delicate flavor and texture with the halibut. But that doesn’t in any way mean you are limited to them. Any mushrooms, button, cremini, baby bellas, absolutely any of them will be good with this dish.

About the fish
Any flaky white fish may be substituted for the halibut. Cut fillets into thick pieces, each about 5 to 6 ounces. Try to keep the thickness of each fillet the same, although the weight of the fish may vary from packet to packet. If you wish to make some of the packets larger than others, simply mark the parchment with an initial to remind you whom it is for. No one will see it once you cut the packets open. No matter the size of the fish, it always cooks through in 13 to 14 minutes, as long as the thickness is similar.

So follow my how-to photos, wrap up your fish and present your guests with a gift they will long remember.

1 Tbs. Thai Red Curry Paste makes a spicy sauce, Use less for a tamer version.

1 Tbs. Thai Red Curry Paste makes a spicy sauce, Use less for a tamer version.

Clean oyster mushrooms with a damp cloth. Discard stems.

Clean oyster mushrooms with a damp cloth. Discard stems.

Clean trumpet mushrooms with a damp cloth. Discard bottom of stem. Slice the rest and use. The stems are tender.

Clean trumpet mushrooms with a damp cloth. Discard bottom of stem. Slice the rest and use. The stems are tender.

Cut mushrooms into pieces close to the same size and sauté until lightly browned and tender.

Cut mushrooms into pieces close to the same size and sauté until lightly browned and tender.

Fold parchment in half and draw a heart about 15”x 8” wide.

Fold parchment in half and draw a heart about 15”x 8” wide.

Smear butter on fish and arrange fish and mushrooms near the fold in the paper.

Smear butter on fish and arrange fish and mushrooms near the fold in the paper.

4 packets can fit on a half sheet pan.

4 packets can fit on a half sheet pan.

 
 

Thai-Curry Butter Halibut Packets

6 tablespoons. butter, softened + 1 tablespoon, divided
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste, or less for a less spicy sauce
1 small clove garlic, minced
8 to 10 oz. mixture of trumpet and oyster mushrooms, quartered if large (about 4 cups)
Kosher salt
4 (5 to 6-oz.) skinless halibut fillets or similar flaky white fish
Freshly ground black pepper
4 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup), including about 3-inches of green tops
1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
Rice, for serving
 

1. Mix 6 Tbs. of the butter, the curry paste, and garlic in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 450°F.

 2. Melt the remaining 1 Tbs. butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and a generous pinch of salt, then reduce the heat to medium. cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

3  Cut four sheets of parchment paper into 15-inch lengths. Fold in half and cut each into a heart, about 15” high x 8” wide. Divide the mushrooms among the sheets of parchment, centering them in the right half of the parchment near the fold. Season the halibut with salt and pepper and place on top of the mushrooms. Top each with an equal portion of the curry butter, and sprinkle with the scallions and a pinch of salt.

4. To seal the packets, bring the left edge of the parchment over the fish. Fold and crimp the edges together tightly. Carefully transfer the packets to a large rimmed baking sheet, and bake until the fish is cooked through, 12 to 13 minutes (a paring knife will come out warm when plunged through the packet into the center of one of the fillets). Carefully transfer the packets to dinner plates and cut them open in the kitchen or at the table. Serve with lime wedges and pass a bowl of rice.
Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine.

 

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Chévre, Lemon & Poppyseed Cheesecakes with Rhubarb-Raspberry Compote

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With this sophisticated, beautiful dessert you’re getting three phenomenal recipes for the price of one. And, seeing as they are all free, this may be the bargain of the year. I didn’t include the crispy graham cracker streusel in the title, because it wouldn’t all fit on one line (one of my unwritten rules.)

The star is the creamiest cheesecake you’ve ever tasted (Note, I didn’t say “one of”) baked in individual ramekins, soufflé dishes or custard cups, crowned with an absurdly sweet-tart rhubarb-raspberry sauce, sprinkled with crunchy bits of graham cracker streusel. Definitely my newest favorite dessert.

The cheesecakes
The original recipe from Food & Wine suggests baking the cakes in 4 ounce ramekins. I thought they would be too small, so I baked my first batch in 6 ounce soufflé dishes. The verdict: 5 ounces would be perfect. Men ate the entire 6 ounces, but the women left about a quarter. (After a big dinner, I had trouble finishing 6 ounces, although Kart thought they were perfect.) I am writing the recipe as it was originally written for 4 ounces, but be creative and use whatever small dishes you have in your cupboard.

The trick to making the cakes creamy is to not overbake them. When you shake one gently, the center should jiggle slightly—-20 to 25 minutes should do it, if your oven is well calibrated. They will continue to set-up while they sit in a turned off oven for an hour.

As with all cheesecakes, make sure your cheeses are at room temperature, so they can be mixed perfectly smooth.

Rhubarb-Raspberry Compote
Recipes with rhubarb are cropping up all over, but, unfortunately, mainstream supermarkets aren’t picking up on them. Whole Foods near me has finally gotten it in, so if you are inclined to make this recipe, run and grab it now. You can always cut it into pieces and freeze it. When using frozen, after defrosting, you can go right ahead and cook it as directed. Look for the reddest stems available; they will make a more vibrant sauce. Unless they are exceptionally tough, it isn’t necessary to peel them.

If you don’t have St. Germaine (elderflower, liqueur), don’t feel like you need to run out and get it . The compote is extremely flavorful without it. If you do have it, add a little to some vodka with a little sugar syrup for a fantastic gimlet.

If you can’t get rhubarb, you can substitute any fresh raspberry or strawberry sauce. You might use the Raspberry Sauce in my Set-It and Forget-It Meringue Torte, Click HERE.

Streusel
The first time I made this dessert, by the time I got to the streusel I thought, “This is ridiculous. Way too much work for one dessert.” But after making it, I feel differently. It is really simple to make and can be made whenever you like; it keeps for weeks and freezes perfectly.

Three terrific recipes, each one a stand-out on its own. Put them all together and you have far more than you’ve bargained for—a dessert that you will be proud to serve to the most discriminating guests.

Choose the reddest rhubarb for a more vibrant sauce and slice into small pieces.

Choose the reddest rhubarb for a more vibrant sauce and slice into small pieces.

Grate ginger on a microplane, the small holes on a hand grater or in an electric coffee grinder.

Grate ginger on a microplane, the small holes on a hand grater or in an electric coffee grinder.

Nothing grates citrus easier than a microplane grater.

Nothing grates citrus easier than a microplane grater.

Let soften until rhubarb becomes juicy.

Let soften until rhubarb becomes juicy.

Cook until rhubarb is softened and sauce is thickened.

Cook until rhubarb is softened and sauce is thickened.

 

CHÉVRE, LEMON & POPPYSEED CHEESECAKES with RHUBARB-RASPBERRY COMPOTE
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for coating the ramekins
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
  1 cup sour cream
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

COMPOTE
1 pound rhubarb, cut into thin slices
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1 tablespoon St.-Germain liqueur or elderflower cordial, optional
1 pint raspberries

STREUSEL
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (from 1 sleeve)
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1, Make Cheesecakes: Preheat the oven to 325°. Spray eight 4 ounce ramekins with vegetable oil spray and dust with sugar; tap out the excess. Set the ramekins in a large roasting pan.

2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, goat cheese and the 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar until smooth. Beat in the zest, lemon juice, vanilla and salt. Beat in the sour cream. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in the poppy seeds.

3. Divide the mixture among the ramekins and set the pan in the oven. Carefully add enough hot water to the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cheesecakes are just set. Remove from the oven and let cool in the water bath for 1 hour. Refrigerate the cheesecakes until cooled completely, 3 hours or overnight.

To Make Ahead: Cheesecakes can be refrigerated overnight.

4. Make Compote: In a medium saucepan, let the rhubarb, sugar, and salt stand until slightly juicy, 20 minutes. Add the zest and ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is tender, about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla, St.-Germain and raspberries and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Transfer the compote to a bowl and let cool.

To Make Ahead: Compote may be refrigerated overnight.

5. Make Streusel: Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar and lemon juice until fluffy. Beat in the graham cracker crumbs, flour, salt and cinnamon. Scatter the streusel onto the baking sheet and freeze for 10 minutes.

6. Bake the streusel for about 20 minutes, until fragrant, golden and firm. Let cool completely, then crumble the streusel.

To Make Ahead: Streusel may be stored at room temperature for several days or frozen.

7. To Serve: Run a thin knife around the cheesecakes and invert them onto plates. Spoon the compote on top and garnish with the streusel crumbs. Serve right away.

Makes 8 servings.

RECIPE ADAPTED FROM FOOD & WINE

 

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Miso-Glazed Eggplant

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Eggplant doesn’t get better than this. It is so good, it almost tastes like it’s candied. And it’s really easy. I don’t have a grill, so I use my grill pan (which is cast iron and a bitch to clean—-by far the most difficult part of this recipe.)

It takes about 8 minutes to cook the eggplant on a grill pan. It is best to turn it once or twice so it cooks evenly. Then take it off the heat and brush with the most amazing sauce ever. How can 5 everyday ingredients turn eggplant into such deliciousnesss? The secret is magic miso.

I call miso magic because It adds umami to every sauce, soup, stew, and braised dish you make. When ever anything needs more oomph, a teaspoon or two of miso will add a savory depth of flavor. The white miso, which is the lightest and the only kind I’ve tried so far, is made of fermented soy beans and rice. One of these days I am going to break down and buy the red and yellow, but for right now, I’m having too much fun playing with the white.

When you taste this succulent eggplant, you’ll have discovered the umami magic of miso.

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Miso-Glazed Eggplant

1 lb. globe or Chinese eggplant
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons white miso
⅛ tp ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

  1. Heat a grill pan over high heat. Cut globe eggplant into rounds 3/4-inch thick. Slice Chinese eggplant diagonally 3/4-inch thick. Coat each slice generously with cooking spray. Grill eggplant slices, turning occasionally, until charred and tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to a baking sheet or platter.

  2. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, brown sugar, soy sauce, miso and pepper flakes.

  3. Brush both sides of eggplant with sauce. Serve warm or room temperature.

    Makes 3 servings.

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15-Minute Pickled Cucumbers

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Truly, you can make delightfully crunchy pickles in 15 minutes and they will keep for weeks when submerged in the brine. They are terrific in all your sandwiches, with cold meats and cheeses and just for snacking. Vary the brine by adding minced garlic, sliced onions, whole pepper seeds and fresh herbs. The amount of heat is up to you. If you like them spicy, increase the red pepper flakes. If serving them with the Hoi Sin Glazed Salmon Burgers, the heat gets diffused, so I like to increase the red pepper flakes to 1/4 teaspoon.

⅓ cup water
¼ cup rice vinegar
½  teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon whole or crushed mustard seeds, optional
⅛ teaspoon or more crushed red pepper flakes
24 English cucumber slices, about 1/8 inch thick

 In a small saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, sugar, salt, ginger, mustard seeds, if using, and red pepper flakes. Bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in cucumbers. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.

To store: Spoon cucumbers into a jar, pour brine over (make sure they are submerged in the brine), and refrigerate for several weeks.

Makes 24 thin slices.

 

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Hoisin-Glazed Salmon Burgers

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Whenever I spy a good buy on salmon, I purchase enough for two night’s dinners. The first night I sear or grill the fillets or steaks to get them done quickly and serve half of them. It’s the second night’s leftovers that I crave.

Whether you choose to use cooked or raw salmon in these burgers, they are full of fragrant and aromatic flavors. Finely chop the salmon and mix it with zesty grated ginger, umami soy sauce, aromatic scallions and citrusy cilantro. The difference in using raw or cooked salmon is the amount of time you cook the burgers, 4 to 5 minutes if raw, 2 to 4 minutes if cooked. Although I’ve written the recipe for 2, it can be multiplied as many times as desired.

Right before you take these savory patties off the heat, thickly glaze them with hoisin sauce; the Asian condiment that is often compared to barbecue sauce with its dark color, thick consistency, and sweet and tangy flavors. 

Quickly move the burgers onto two toasted hoisin coated buns, top them with crunchy 15 minute home made pickled cucumbers and be prepared for your taste buds to burst into dance.

Hoisin-Glazed Salmon Burgers

6 to 8 oz. salmon, raw or cooked
3 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2½ teaspoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions, white and 2 to 3-inches of the tops
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish, if desired
3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
1 egg white
Scant ¼ teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, or more if desired
2 hamburger buns, toasted
15 Minute Pickled Cucumbers, for recipe click here

Pulse the mixture until it is slightly chunky, don’t puree it.

Pulse the mixture until it is slightly chunky, don’t puree it.

Sauté until golden.

Sauté until golden.

Brush each side thickly with hoi sin glaze.

Brush each side thickly with hoi sin glaze.

Hoisin-Glazed Salmon Burgers

6 to 8 oz. salmon, raw or cooked
3 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2½ teaspoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions, white and 2 to 3-inches of the tops
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish, if desired
3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
1 egg white
Scant ¼ teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, or more if desired
2 hamburger buns, toasted
15 Minute Pickled Cucumbers, for recipe click here

  1. To make salmon mixture:  Finely chop the salmon and put it into a medium-size bowl. Stir in the ginger, soy sauce, green onions, cilantro, panko and egg white.

  2. To shape patties: Divide the salmon into 2 portions and shape them into 2 equal patties, about 1/2 to 3/4-inches thick.

  3. To cook: In a medium skillet, preferably nonstick, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add patties and cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes, if raw, 2 minutes if cooked. Turn and brush tops with hoisin sauce.  Cook 2 to 4 more minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Do not overcook, or they will be dry. Turn over and brush second side with hoisin. Remove from heat. 

  4. To serve:  Brush cut side of buns with hoisin sauce. Top bottom half with a burger, arrange desired number of pickled cucumbers and cilantro sprigs over salmon and top with bun. Cut in half to serve.

Makes 2 servings.   

 

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