August 9, 2010

Hot Pockets

It is true that the easiest way to lower your sodium is to cut out the prepared, packaged items from your diet. But it is false that home-cooked meals, made from scratch, have to be costly, time-consuming, and exhausting to create.

Now, I’m not saying your assumption is wrong, because many dishes, like making your own mole sauce, could put you into an ingredient-induced coma for weeks. But thanks to inventions like the slow cooker and immersion blender, you can make flavorful, low sodium meals in the time it takes to order a pizza.

For this particular story, let’s just say you don’t have a slow cooker or an immersion blender (there’s just no room in the kitchen!), and you still want a speedy means to creating food that impresses your palate and your friends. Well, look no further than your Reynolds wrap. That’s right. A few sheets of foil will help you create an impressive low sodium surprise that requires simple prep and almost no clean-up.

Perhaps you have heard of the French cooking technique, “en papillote.” If not, it sounds fancy, but this Francophone phrase simply means “in parchment,” and that’s exactly what you do.

The protein to be cooked – usually fish or chicken – is wrapped up in parchment paper (or a paper bag or foil) with a little oil (or water, wine, or stock) and some vegetables and then is heated over a grill or in the oven. The pouch structure allows the food to slowly steam inside, ensuring juicy results with almost no possibility of over-cooking. Since I’ve used this technique, it almost seems that the longer the pouch cooks (i.e. when I forget how long it has been in the oven), the deeper the flavors develop. It is fool-proof and time-efficient.

So now that you’re convinced of the benefits, you’re probably be eager to give this technique a go, but wondering what magical ingredients you should put inside to boil and bubble and burst with flavor. Good thing I have a summer recipe just waiting for you to try: Succotash and Sole Hot Pockets.

Simply dice summer squash, zucchini, and some tomatoes (heirloom if possible) and put them in a bowl. Add corn and edamame (I used frozen varieties for both), some fresh herbs (like parsley, cilantro, and chives), and a tablespoon or two of flavored olive oil (like basil, garlic, or even truffle). Get your hands dirty and give it a good mix.

As for the fish, rub each filet with a mixture of  super aromatic spices, like cumin, smoked paprika, ground black pepper, ground mustard, ground nutmeg, and a pinch of cayenne. Or use a salt-free spice blend like Penzeys Jerk Chicken/Fish rub.

To prepare the packages, scoop a hearty layer of succotash directly on the foil and layer the fish over it. Then slice some rounds of lime (or other citrus) and put them on the top of the fish. Complete the prep with a quick squeeze of juice and a final splash of oil; finally, by folding and rolling the sides together, tightly close the package and throw them in the fridge until the oven is ready. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes minimum and when you’re ready to serve, leave the packages closed and have your guests open them for themselves, releasing the steam and smells as they dig in. And the juices that develop inside will be so good, you’ll want to drink it. You might want to accompany the dish with some sort of grain that guests can use to soak it up.

With that, you have a complete, low sodium meal that tastes even more magnificent than it looks. The only things getting dirty are your hands and the cutting board and other than that, you have a tidy way of making tasty food. There is no exact science to the amount of each ingredient or spice, and other than throwing on too much cayenne, you really can’t go wrong. So get creative and get wrapping and, as always, chow on.

afoung August 9, 2010 at 4:00 pm

wow, a mouth full to the face. must have been good.

Margaret Sobus August 13, 2010 at 6:17 am

Great idea and I’ll be using it tonight. Thanks so much.

karla June 4, 2011 at 10:48 am

I just wanna say this is one the best meals I have ever had in my entire life. Thanks so much! I made this last night so easy to make clean up is easy and when you open this pocket of goodness your dinner guest will be surprised. Make sure you warn them not to put they’re faces right over it cause you will get a face full of stream. LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEEE it!

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