Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mexican Sole en Papillote and Grilled Corn on the Cob

Or should I say: Lenguado en Papillote con Elote a la Plancha.  Whether you say it in French or in English or in Spanish, cooking something "en papillote" is a method in which you steam food folded in a pouch or parcel, often made of parchment paper.  In Italian it is known as cooking al cartoccio, or cooking 'ala cartridge'.  It makes sense once you find out the etymology of cartridge: alteration of earlier cartage, alteration of French cartouche, from Italian cartuccio, variant of cartoccio, roll of paper! Instead of parchment, one might also use aluminum foil, a paper bag, or banana or cassava leaves. Whatever the material, the parcel it forms holds in moisture to steam the food.  The moisture may be from the food itself or from an added moisture source like water, wine, or stock.
In this case I added a pureed tomato and red pepper sauce.  My inspiration was from a recipe in Susana Trilling's fabulous book, Seasons of My Heart: A Culinary Journey Through Oaxaca, Mexico.  In this book, Susana highlights what for me is one of my greatest joys (and deepest frustrations); the rich diversity of regional Mexican Cuisine (and the all too frequent lack of it's representation in the U.S.).  I know, I know, there are some great restaurants in this fine country of ours that collectively serve up a fantastic variety of the Cocina Mexicana.  I just long for something other than your standard taqueria that seems to plague us here in Santa Cruz (if you search for taquerias in or near Santa Cruz, CA on Yelp, by the way, you will get 87 results) .  Maybe one day Susana Trilling will open a Oaxacan restaurant here and serve dishes from her book like: Stuffed Crepes with Sweet Potato and Pineapple Sauce, Fried Plantains with Ginger Jalapeño Cream, Pork Loin Medallions with Cactus Fruit Sauce, and Herbal Tamales with Smoked Chile Salsa.  Maybe she'll even serve Pescado Empapelado al Diablo!  Trilling mentions that her recipe for this dish comes from Juana Ramírez, owner of the Los Delfines de Chacahua in the coastal region of Oaxaca.  As I mentioned before, and as is pretty common for me, I used the recipe as an inspiration, but improvised according to what I had on hand and appealed to me.  I tossed some yellow onion, tomato, roasted red pepper, garlic, Tapatío hot sauce, fresh epazote, salt and pepper in a wide-mouth jar and pureed with my hand blender.  Then I heated some butter in a saute pan and simmered the sauce for 5 minutes.  I seasoned each sole fillet and set it down on a piece parchment at least twice it's size.  I poured the sauce over the top of the sole, and folded the parchment to form a parcel (see cookthink for some tips on how to fold it).  Placed on a baking sheet and into a 400° oven, the fillets should be done in 6-10 minutes.
 On to the corn.  Elote (from the Nahuatl word elotl) is a popular street food in Mexico. Elote is prepared by steaming the corn or roasting it in the husks until the kernels are soft and charred.  The corn is then removed from the husks and grilled.  After grilling, the corn is spread with mayonnaise and sprinkled with a mild-flavored Mexican white cheese called cotija.  Finally, it is seasoned with lime juice, cayenne pepper or chile powder and salt.  SO DAMN GOOD!  I took a more simple approach.  I made a compound butter with lime juice, chipotle, lime zest, and salt. I simply charred the corn in their husks on a grill pan, then slathered on the butter and got all Mickey Mouse on it!

A simple green salad to round things out, and we have ourselves a lovely meal.  It's fun cooking things ala cartridge!

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