Gourmet Jiffy Pop

It has been non-stop fun here this week. My sister and her kids have been visiting and boy has it been a wonderful way to kick off the summer. The children have raced around the neighborhood after dinner each night playing Manhunt and Tag, the shreaks of their laughter punctuating the calm twilight hour. They have blown through the door at 8 pm, a tired, dirty pack of arms and legs, all giddy with the joy of being together. And, while the children played, the adults were having their own fun talking on the porch and cooking adventurous adult dinner.

There are few things more wonderful than cooking with my sister. I find it is so reassuring to have another set of capable hands to back you up and a fabulous conversationalist to make the work seem effortless. And, it is great fun to have a fellow foodie to try new things with. Most of this week we have created kid-friendly food for all. But yesterday, for Lisa’s last night here, I wanted to make a true adult dinner and have kitchen adventure. Yesterday afternoon I began looking through various cookbooks to see if something didn’t jump out at me. I admit, it took me a while to abandon the idea that both the kids and adults could all eat the same meal-but a recipe for an Asian inspired halibut got me over the hump. The kids could have chicken and pasta!

The recipe came from a Jean-Georges & Mark Bittman cookbook that I admit I have not used that often. But, like I said, I wanted a kitchen adventure- and the more I thought about it, the more I was in the mood for fish. Lisa was game and so fish it was. This recipe peaked my interest because a) it was drop dead easy, and b) it was cooked on the stovetop in a foil package- not unlike Jiffy Pop. Well, I was always a sucker for Jiffy Pop as a child- so Jiffy Pop fish had to be mine!

We made the recipe- it took all of 5 minutes to assemble the ingredients in the foil packet-placed the packet on a sizzling skillet and stood back while it did it’s thing. The foil packet expanded- though not as dramatically as Jiffy Pop and 6 minutes later, we removed it from the heat and then cut into it.

The fish was fabulous. It was perfectly steamed and in a delicious broth of juices and veggies. We dove in and when we were finished, there was not a single bite of food or a drop of broth left. Jiffy Pop fish was everything I crave in a new recipe: fast, delicious and fun to do! Try it; I am sure you will be pleased!

Jiffy Pop Fish
Adapted from Jean Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman
Serves 2

¼ savoy cabbage, (about 4 oz) cored and separated into leaves
Two- 6-8 oz fillets of sea bass or halibut-skin removed, about 1” thick
Freshly ground pepper
2 oz shitake mushrooms (about 6), stems removed, caps roughly chopped
8 oz of grape or cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
Butter for the foil, plus 2 Tablespoons
1/3 c. whole fresh mint leaves
1/3 c. whole cilantro leaves
2 T nam pla (Asian fish sauce)
2 T lime juice
1 T any oil
course salt

1. Blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Rinse under cold water and drain.
2. Make a stack of 3 pieces of 3-foot-long shhets of foil. Have the short end facing you and butter halfway up to the other end. On the buttered foil, place the cabbage, fish, pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes. Cut the 2 T. of butter in pieces and dot the pile with it. Then scatter over the pile the mint, cilantro, nam pla and lime juice.
3. Fold one short end onto the other, then fold the foil onto itself the long way, crimping the edges as tightly as possible by making 1”or 2” folds, one after another, each sealing the other. The package must be very tightly sealed-but still leave room for the fish.
4. Place a large skillet (package must fit inside it) over high heat. A minute later add the oil, then pour out all but a film. Put the package directly on the skillet; it will sizzle. About two minutes later the package will expand like a balloon-be careful of escaping steam. Cook for 5-6 minutes from that point.
5. Remove the package from the heat-taking care to avoid any escaping steam. Let rest for one minute and then cut a slit along the length of the top with a knife. Spoon the fish and vegetables onto a plate. Drizzle with juices from package. Season with sea salt and serve immediately.


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