Meatless Monday—we try to adhere to this dinner principal as often as we can, and we enjoy the challenge of discovering new meatless dishes, so when we came across this baby, Cod Baked in Foil with Leeks and Carrots from Cooks Illustrated, we were intrigued. Can’t tell you how wonderful this simple wrapped dinner was!
For a foil-baked fish recipe with flaky fish and tender but firm vegetables flavored by the aromatic goodness of their mingled juices, choose mild haddock or cod over more assertive salmon or tuna, which can overpower vegetables. Placing the packets on the lower-middle rack of the oven close to the heat source concentrates the exuded liquid and deepens its flavor.
Vegetable selection is important, potatoes fail to cook evenly in the packets, and eggplant turns to mush, so carrots and leeks ended up being a perfect choice.* Adding a final flavoring touch—a compound butter—contributes to a full-flavored sauce that perfectly complements the fish.
I unwittingly used 4 tablespoons of extra dry sherry instead of the dry vermouth, but didn’t notice the error until after we finished eating. And much to my chagrin, the Russman used up the parsley the night before, so I used extra thyme in the topping mixture. However, neither one of these swaps seemed to degrade the dish in any discernible manner.
Immediately after dinner, Russ went to save into his recipe database and found there were two other versions on this same concept, incorporating cod but using *different ingredients such as fennel, shallots and oranges. Yes, we will be trying another version in the very near future. Stay tuned…
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 ¼ teaspoons finely grated zest from 1 lemon; then cut lemon cut into wedges
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks (about 1 ½ cups) (see note)
- 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts halved lengthwise, washed, and cut into matchsticks (about 2 cups) (see note)
- 4 tablespoons vermouth or dry white wine
- 4 skinless cod fillets, 1 to 1 ¼ inches thick (about 6 ounces each)
- Combine butter, ¼ teaspoon zest, 1 teaspoon garlic, thyme, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in small bowl. Combine parsley, remaining teaspoon zest, and remaining teaspoon garlic in another small bowl; set aside. Place carrots and leeks in medium bowl, season with salt and pepper, and toss together.
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Cut eight 12-inch sheets of foil; arrange four flat on counter.
- Divide carrot and leek mixture among foil sheets, mounding in center of each. Pour 1 tablespoon vermouth over each mound of vegetables.
- Pat fish dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper and place one fillet on top of each vegetable mound. Spread quarter of butter mixture on top of each fillet.
- Place second square of foil on top of fish; crimp edges together in ½-inch fold, then fold over three more times to create a packet about 7 inches square (see illustrations, above). Place packets on rimmed baking sheet (overlapping slightly if necessary).
- Bake packets 15 minutes. Carefully open foil, allowing steam to escape away from you. Using thin metal spatula, gently slide fish and vegetables onto plate with any accumulated juices; sprinkle with parsley mixture. Serve immediately, passing lemon wedges separately.
Arrange carrot and leek mixture in center of foil.
For the compound butter: combine butter, zest, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper in small bowl.
Spread butter mixture on top of each fillet.
Place second square of foil on top of fish and crimp and fold edges together.
NOTES: The packets may be assembled several hours ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to cook. If the packets have been refrigerated for more than 30 minutes, increase the cooking time by 2 minutes. Open each packet promptly after baking to prevent overcooking.
If your fish has a thin tailpiece, tuck it under so it cooks at the same rate as the rest of the fillet: Cut halfway through the flesh crosswise, 2 to 3 inches from the tail end, then fold the tail end under the cut seam to create a fillet of even thickness.