Almost two weeks ago, I hosted a late afternoon cooking class for an intimate group at my friend Alex’s house. The farm fresh menu included:
Roasted Pepper and Goat Cheese Crostinis
Black Drum en Papillote
Roasted Tomatoes with Basil Pecan Pesto
Pecan & Roasted Garlic Couscous (recipe not included)
Wine and summer cocktails flowed, as I instructed them on to how prepare this elegant, dinner-party-perfect meal. While they wined and watched, my dear friends Jen and Tim photographed the entire preparation so I could share each stage of this Indian summer supper with you. So without further ado here are my step-by-step photo recipes for week 13.
1. Start with a nice bottle of wine, preferably equipped with a pouring aerator.
2. Roast a green, red, yellow, and orange bell pepper at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes, rotating each pepper every 15 minutes until their skins have browned and puffed up. Transfer the peppers to a brown paper bag, fold the bag up, and let them cool for 15 minutes.
When the peppers are cool enough to handle, skin, core, and de-seed them. Then, slice each pepper into long, thin slices. Combine them in a bowl with a sprinkle of salt & pepper, a dash of olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Add a whole clove of garlic to the pepper mixture. Let them marinate for at least 4 hours, or up to 1 day ahead of time.
3. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice a whole wheat baguette into 1/4″ slices. Lightly brush each side with extra virgin olive oil. Toast the crostinis until they are crisp, about 10-15 minutes.
4. After the crostinis have cooled, lightly spread them with goat cheese. If goat cheese isn’t your thing, try Boursin or cream cheese. Or, skip the cheese altogether, but who am I kidding? That is just crazy talk.
5.Top each crostini with a spoonful of the marinated peppers.
6. Add a chiffonade of basil to top each crostini.
7. Take a bite and enjoy!
Now on to the entree…Texas Black Drum en Papillote. This a French preparation that sounds fancy and complicated, but it simply means to cook fish in parchment. It is an effortless preparation. I used 4oz portions of black drum because it’s a moderately priced regional fish from the Gulf of Mexico, but you can switch it out for tilapia, salmon, halibut, or whatever fish fits your budget. This recipe will serve 6.
1. Start by softening a stick of unsalted butter. When it’s soft and creamy enough, add a handful of chopped chives and combine. Tear off a square of plastic wrap and place the butter in the center. Start rolling the plastic wrap around the butter, and form it into a log. Chill in the fridge for up to 1 day ahead of time.
2. Thinly slice 1 pound of cremini mushrooms.
3. Wash a lemon and trim both ends off. Slice the lemon in half lengthwise, then slice each half into 6 thin half moons.
4. Tear six squares of parchment paper and fold each one in half. Take each parchment sheet, and start layering the ingredients on one half of the paper. First the mushrooms.
5. Then top the mushrooms with a cleaned and rinsed 4oz portion of black drum, a pinch of kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, two lemon half moons, a thin slice of the chive compound butter, and a sprig or two of parsley. Repeat this five more times. Each portion should look pretty like this.
6. For each portion, fold the parchment over the fish and fold each edge to create a neat sealed package. Store the packages in the fridge on a cookie sheet. The packages can be assembled up to 8 hours in advance.
7. Toss two packages of washed cherry tomatoes with 2 tablespoons or so of olive oil on a cookie sheet.
8. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. When it’s hot, roast the tomatoes and the black drum for 15 minutes.
9. While the fish rests for a few moments, toss the tomatoes with a few spoonfuls of pesto. Feel free to use prepared pesto or give Ina Garten’s recipe a try. To give her version a Texas twist, substitute the walnuts and pine nuts with a 1/2 C. of roasted Texas pecans.
10. Serve the black drum en papillote still in its package with the roasted tomatoes and couscous. Letting each person cut open the parchment is half the fun of this dish. When they are finally opened, the delicious aromatic steam erupts from the package and the fish is cooked to flaky perfection. Bon Appetit!
Thanks again to everyone who attended the class. And, especially Jen & Tim for the fantastic photos!!