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Lemony Halibut en Papillotes with Leek Rice Pilaf

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Serves 4

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 113

This recipe comes with a built-in side dish: fragrant rice pilaf enriched with sautéed leeks. Don’t worry if the edges of the rice seem crunchy when you open the packets; these bits are delicious.

  • 5 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened; more for the parchment
  • 1-1/4 cups thinly sliced leek (white and lightgreen parts only, from 1 medium leek)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup long grain white rice
  • 1 strip lemon zest (about 3/4 x 2-1/2 inches)
  • 1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 Tbs.)
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 4 1-inch-thick skinless halibut fillets (5 to 6 oz. each)
  • 4 thin lemon slices, cut into half moons, seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
Tip:
Much of the excitement of cooking en papillote is the moment when you open the packets and release an enticing cloud of aromatic steam. So that everyone gets to experience that moment, serve the unopened packets on plates and let people open their own.

Heat 1-1/2 Tbs. of the butter in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the leek, season with 1/8 tsp. salt and a grind or two of pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until tender but not browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the rice, stir to coat with butter, and cook, stirring until the rice begins to crackle, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. water, 1/2 tsp. salt, and the lemon zest. Cover and reduce heat to a low. Simmer until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Discard the lemon zest, fluff with a fork, and set aside to cool slightly.

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.

Prepare the parchment packages. Cut four 15x24-inch sheets of parchment. Fold each sheet in half, forming a 15x12-inch rectangle. With a pencil, draw a half-heart on each, centering it on the folded edge. Cut out the hearts. (This shape is easier to seal than a rectangle.)

In a small bowl, mix the remaining 3-1/2 Tbs. butter with 1 Tbs. of the shallot, the parsley, dill, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste until evenly combined.

Unfold the parchment and arange on a work surface. Coat the inside of each with butter, leaving a 3-inch border. Distribute the remaining shallots among the sheets on one half of the heart Distribute the rice among the sheets, arranging it in a small mound on top of the shallots. Season the halibut fillets with salt and pepper and put them on top of the rice. Smear the top of the fillets with the seasoned butter, distributing it evenly. Arrange two lemon slices on each fillet and sprinkle the wine over the fish. Fold the other half of the parchment over and line up the edges. Starting at the top of the heart, fold over about 1/2 inch of the edge, pressing down to make a crisp crease. Continue working your way around the edge of the packet, making overlapping folds (like pleats), always pressing firmly and creasing the edge so the folds hold. Twist the tip of the heart to finish. If necessary, make a second fold anyplace that doesn’t appear tightly sealed.

Transfer the packets to two large, rimmed baking sheets and bake for 8 minutes. Rotate and swap the baking sheets’ positions and continue to bake until the packets are puffed and fragrant, about 7 minutes more. Serve immediately.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with a bowl of steamed green beans or a simple tossed salad, if you like.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 410; Fat (g): fat g 18; Fat Calories (kcal): 160; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 10; Protein (g): protein g 32; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 5; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 25; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1.5; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 260; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 85; Fiber (g): fiber g 1;

Photo: Scott Phillips

I made this recipe for Valentine's Day for my family, and everyone raved about the flavors. I used a red onion instead of the leek and 2 C (dry) Chimes 5 grain organic rice blend, as I was serving four people. The red onion turned the rice a lovely pale pink, which was a hoot considering the holiday and made for a nice contrast to the gleaming white fish and flash stir-fried broccoli and garlic I served on the side. I used the butter (Plugra), and it was delicious, but I also had a LOT more rice than your recipe called for, so perhaps that made the difference. I used more zest in the rice while cooking and added the remainder of the lemon juice at the end. I also substituted the juice of one blood orange for the white wine and used parchment cooking bags, which are more convenient. Thanks for another wonderful dinner.

Amazing! I would definitely double the amount of rice if cooking for four - it was a good amount for two.

Absolutely delicious! We used the full amount of butter and loved it. Easy to make for a weeknight dinner, we have made this a few times already with cod, tilapia and halibut. The halibut is the best but also more a expensive fish.

Agree with the other reviewer, it is pretty heavy on the butter! I used olive oil on the parchment and didn't use all the butter it asked for on top of the fish. Wonderful and easy recipe though!

Wukd have given this a five star rating, but it was a little overload on the butter. My whole family loved it other than that. Had great flavor, simple, tasty. Served with a side of green beans as suggested. Next time I will probably use half the amount of butter (somewhere).

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