One of the nicest meals I enjoyed on a recent trip to England was prepared by my old schoolfriend Fiona at her lovely home in the countryside. We looked out on her lush spring garden as we dined on perfect room temperature salmon fillet, baked to perfection in parchment paper, en papillote, as the French say, with lemon and fresh herbs.
I loved the creamy Green Goddess sauce and tender new potatoes that accompanied it, and the bonus platter of pea and mint fritters she served was a special and delicious touch. I must confess that I indulged in more than a few of these tasty morsels and have done my best to replicate them for our June issue.
They make a great side dish for any kind of fish, and a perfect light lunch or supper served with a crisp green salad. Instead of salmon, I have used individually baked local flounder fillets. This simple cooking method preserves the delicate texture of the fish, as they gently steam in their ready-made sauce of lemon, herbs, and butter. I hope I have done justice to Fiona’s special meal, and that you enjoy this homage to a wonderful late spring evening.
Lemon Baked Flounder in Parchment Paper (En Papillote)
You can use this method for just about any fish fillets. With the addition of a few vegetables such as tender asparagus spears, halved cherry tomatoes and trimmed scallions you can make a complete meal. Plate the individual packages and have your guests open them at the table (carefully letting the steam out, with scissors for safety!). My packages are serviceable but not pretty. If you want to up your game, view one of the many instructional videos on YouTube for valuable tips.
4 large flounder or fluke fillets, if smaller allow two per person
one lemon, sliced into thin rounds
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. white wine
sea salt & pepper
baking parchment paper
Lay out a square of parchment 13” by 15” on the counter. Lay two small or one large flounder fillet slightly to one side of the paper and brush all around it with olive oil. This will moisten the fish and allow the packet to seal. Lightly sprinkle the fish with sea salt. Place one lemon slice on each fillet, along with a small slice of butter. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp. white wine, black pepper, and snip some freshly cut chives onto the fish. Fold over the parchment and roll edges around the fish to make a package, leaving room inside for the package to expand during cooking. Transfer the packages onto one or two heavy baking sheets and place in a preheated 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes before carefully opening the packages to prevent steam escaping too quickly. Place the flounder on a dinner plate and spoon over the butter and white wine juices. Serve with 2 to 3 fritters per person and an extra wedge of lemon.
Pea, Ricotta and Mint Fritters
Special care needs to be taken with sourcing and preparing the ingredients. If the mixture is too wet, the fritters will not hold together. My first attempts were delicious, but they fell apart! Purchase a hand dipped ricotta that has been drained to give it a thicker and drier texture. I used Luzzi, purchased at Wickhams farmstand. Lombardi’s Market in Mattituck sells a great brand called Calabro, which is made in Connecticut. Make sure the peas and spinach are dried thoroughly before adding.
1½ cups fresh ricotta cheese
½ cup finely grated fresh parmesan
2½ oz. imported feta in brine, drained and finely crumbled
1 egg, lightly beaten
1½ cups frozen peas, defrosted, drained and patted dry
2 cups fresh spinach, leaves only
2 Tbsp. fresh mint, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
½ cup scallions, finely sliced
10 basil leaves, finely chopped
½ tsp. finely grated lemon zest
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
fine sea salt
Add the spinach to a pot of boiling salted water. Turn down the heat and cook for about two minutes. Place in a strainer and run under cold water to prevent further cooking. Drain well, then place on a clean dishtowel. Squeeze out as much moisture as you can before chopping finely. Place the cheeses in a medium bowl and mix in the beaten egg.
Fold the baking powder into the flour and add to the cheese mixture. Stir in the lemon zest, peas, spinach, scallions, and fresh herbs. Mix thoroughly. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste. Place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to an hour.
Remove the mixture from the refrigerator. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Drop two tablespoon-size portions of mixture into the pan for each fritter, cooking for 4 to 5 minutes on the first side. Carefully check to see if they are lightly browned, flip them over with a metal spatula, flatten lightly and continue cooking for a further 3 to 5 minutes until cooked through. If you are cooking in two batches, place the first batch on a wire rack placed over a metal sheet pan and keep warm in a 300-degree oven. Serve about 3 fritters person alongside the baked lemon flounder.