October 1, 2012

Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter & Hot

Sometimes the space informs the kind of party one should throw, as well as the type of food that should be served.  Such was the case at my friend Kelsey's birthday dinner.  With a yard filled with palms, birds of paradise and a pergola (perfect for hanging paper lanterns), the home screamed for a Southeast Asian inspired meal.  These spicy flavors are some of my favorite to cook with.  Growing up, my dad hated dressing up, or fussy restaurants, so Thai food, often, was the extent of my dining-out experience (save for the frequent post-soccer game Round Table pizza party).  And a cooking class in Vietnam a few years ago, solidified my interest in these dishes that are dominated by lime, chili, fish sauce and copious amounts of herbs: namely, Holy Basil, mint & cilantro.  In LA, I'm spoiled by Silom Market and Thai Town for sourcing all of these ingredients (I take a little help with pre-shredded green papaya!), but, luckily most can be found at any major grocery store.  Kelsey and Brittany set a beautiful table with chopsticks, simple touches of blue & white and arrangements of palms & bamboo.  These and lots of white paper lanterns can all be found in Chinatown, or on Sawtelle.  To please my friend Leanne, and sharpen up my recipe writing skills, I'm including a recipe for parchment wrapped fish below the party post.  This is the perfect entertaining dish because it can be prepped totally ahead of time and simply popped into the oven twenty minutes before dinner.  This food is casual, delicious and fun to make: a solid combination for an easy dinner party.  
The Menu


The Kelsey

vodka, lime, ginger, soda, egg white

The Beach

silver tequila, coconut water, pineapple, lime, thai chili


mini duck banh mi sandwiches with hoison & sriacha

herb salad rolls with vietnamese dipping sauce

chicken satay with peanut sauce

to share

parchment wrapped halibut with lemongrass, ginger & shitake mushrooms

chicken larb with lettuce cups

coconut-cilantro sticky rice

green papaya salad with cherry tomatoes, green beans & peanuts

sauteed farmers market greens with garlic & sesame

mango with chili & lime


vietnamese ice cream sundaes:

coffee ice cream, sweet condensed milk, coffee & peanut brittle

fortune cookies

party favor

thai gummies

serves 8



- 8 - 6 oz. skinned and deboned portions of your favorite white fish, such as halibut or seabass (tilapia makes for an economical choice).
- a thumb of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced 
- a few handfuls of shitake mushrooms, about 1/2 a pound
-2 stalks of lemon grass, roughly chopped
-2-3 cloves of garlic
-1 shallot, peeled and quartered
-1 T. of curry powder or turmeric 
-2 thai chilis, optional
-1/4 C. of fish sauce, plus more for dousing
-2 T. of olive oil, plus more for drizzling
-one bunch of basil and/or cilantro
-2 limes, thinly sliced
-sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
-lime wedges, served alongside

-steamed white rice

specialty equipment: parchment paper & kitchen twine

to make the sauce (can be made up to two days ahead of time and refrigerated):

-combine lemongrass, garlic, shallot, thai chilis (if you like a little kick) curry powder or turmeric, 1/4 C. of fish sauce, 2 T. of olive oil, salt and pepper in a food processor.  add a little more fish sauce or oil to reach the consistency of a creamy paste.  if making in advance, cover and refrigerate.

to assemble the fish packets (can be made the morning of the party and kept refrigerated until baking)

-cut parchment paper into 14' x 14' squares and lay out on the counter top.

-place one piece of fish in the center of of each packet and season generously with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

-working in an assembly line divide the rest of the ingredients amongst the 8 packets, layering on top of each other.  the following order works: ginger, a dollop of the lemongrass sauce, shitake mushrooms, several sprigs of herbs and sliced lime.  to finish, drizzle each packet with a little oil and a few shakes of fish sauce.

-in the same fashion that you would gift wrap a present, fold the parchment paper around the fish.  fold opposite sides into the center and then fold the remaining sides into the center. secure with twine, as seen in the photo.

-bake on a cookie sheet in the oven at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  after 15 minutes, check one of the packets for doneness.  halibut should be just cooked through.

-serve the packets on a platter, family style, along with steamed rice, vegetables and extra lime wedges.


Note:  This same method can be used with any flavors that you like.  For a more Mediterranean feel, you could simply add lemon, thyme, cherry tomatoes and olives to the packets.  

1 comment:

Karolina said...

Beautiful (as always :))

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