May 21, 2010

Squash & Fusilli Pasta En Papillote

I love fine dining places: they are the shrines preserving best and sometimes extinct methods of cooking and hence offer so many take-away ideas for your own kitchen explorations. The other day as I spoiled myself and a colleague of mine with a lunch at Darvin (Lviv, Ukraine) and I was mesmerized by the white mushrooms with herbs cooked en papillote, or in a folded pouch of parchment paper.

En papillote

Usually before eating I perform a small test. I get my big nose closer to a plate with my food and take a very long inhale – if the food smell lasts as long as my inhale the food must be outstanding; if I can't feel the smell somewhere in the middle of my inhale the food must be passable. So, those mushrooms en papillote filled in my longest inhale with the aroma of the forest-grown mushrooms and fine herbs. Chalked up!

Despite being reputed as a ceremonial fine dining thing en papillote is incredibly easy to do as you don't need any special vessels for this and the method produces mind-boggling and nose-tickling results as all the juices and smells of your ingredients get imprisoned in the paper envelop and the food is cooked in its own juices and aromas swirling inside. I've replicated this method at home and since I am a big fan of pasta I've come up with this pasta en papillote recipe. Another good thing this cooking method is that you can pay farewells to the overcooked baked pasta as en papillote makes it perfectly al dente!

Squash & Fusilli Pasta En Papillote Recipe

Squash & Fusilli Pasta En Papillote
Ingredients (2 servings)

200g dry whole wheat pasta bite-sized (e.g., fusilli or penne)
300 g squash
150 g red onion
150 g mushrooms
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp pumpkin oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp fresh basil leaves
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Pinch of sea salt



Method 

1. Cook fusilli: Cook fusilli to al dente (6-7 minutes after boiling on a low flame). Cook 3-4 minutes longer if you prefer your pasta to be softer.

2. Prepare the vegetables: Preheat the oven to 190 C (375 F). Slice squash and onions into fine half circles and slice whole mushrooms length-wise. Add fresh ground pepper, pinch of salt to encourage the juices come out, the oils, lemon juice and basil. Mix with pasta in a bowl and toss a bit.

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3. Prepare your envelops: You need to make one envelop for each serving. Start with taking a double sheet of parchment paper, fold in the middle, open and place on a large cutting board. Now transfer the vegetable mix for one serving on the bottom part of your to-be envelop. Once done cover with the upper part and start working from the corners to close the envelop. The process is kind of like finishing an open pie: take a pinch of paper from the corner – fold it inside, take a pinch of paper 5 sm down from them corner – fold inside and continue in this fashion. You will end up with quite a cute paper object looking like a calcioni. Make sure the folds are rather tight – keeping the juices and smells locked in is the whole point of the venture. Now sent it to the oven – should be very easy to slightly push it from the cutting board into the very heat. Place the packages on a large baking sheet, and bake until parchment is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Hurrah!

4. Final touch: Transfer packages to plates and serve immediately, opening packages at table: make a cross cut on the top of the envelop with scissors to release the aromas and enjoy the flavours.

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