Chat Leftovers: Outer Banks Weekend, Parchment Paper

Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: This weekend a group of 13 hard-working attorneys in our late 20s will descend upon the Outer Banks for some R&R. I have volunteered to cook dinner one night for the group and am looking for something relatively easy to throw together (maybe even in one pot) that won't keep me in the kitchen missing the festivities for too long. Any thoughts? No dietary restrictions.

Littlenecks 'n' noodles. (Kim O'Donnel)

Seafood sounds about right for a weekend at the beach. For a group of 13, you could grill or roast a whole fish (mahi mahi aka dolphinfish, yellowfin tuna and wahoo swim in the surrounding waters) with little effort. Ask a fishmonger to clean and scale (particularly if you don’t have a fish basket) for you, then stuff with herbs. Season very well with salt (about 1 teaspoon per 1. 25-1.5 pounds), plus a lathering of olive oil, and you’re ready to roll.

Should a grill be unavailable, place the fish in a roasting pan in a 350-degree oven. Whatever you decide, estimate 10 minutes of cooking time per one inch of thickness. One key to doneness – the fish eye will become white and hard, almost pellet-like, and the flesh will be opaque. For details on working with a whole fish, check out my how-to video from 2003.

Another fun seafood option for a large group is a bunch of steamed clams in a heady broth served atop pasta or Asian noodles. Think of the fun you’d have slurping up steamers and noodles. Here’s one way to take on a clammy project.

Salt Lake City, Utah: What is the difference between parchment paper and wax paper? Can wax paper be used as a sheet lining for baking in the oven?

Wax paper is what it says it is -- paper treated with wax. You might remember having your school lunches packed in wax paper before Ziplocs became all the rage (I can still hear the crinkling of the wax-papered tuna sandwiches that a girl in my third-grade class used to bring for lunch). If you use it to line a baking tray for cookies, the wax will burn, the kitchen will smoke and the house will fill with unpleasant fumes. However, you can use wax paper to line a cake pan without worry because the batter will completely cover the surface. It’s when the wax paper is exposed that problems ensue.

Parchment paper, on the other hand, is coated with silicone to give it non-stick capabilities. It's reusable, an admirable quality, and it’s handy for lining baking trays and cake pans, as well as for freezing meat and fish. Ever hear of the term “en papillote?” It means cooked in paper in the oven; the French love cooking fish and veggies this way, in parchment parcels.

Sold both in bleached and unbleached (brown instead of white) versions, a roll will last you a few months. It does not like tape, so forget about using it as a table cloth.

The Last Word

Cider cooking: One of my favorite recipes is for chicken with apples, leeks and wild rice. It takes a while, but it's so worth it. Start a pot of wild rice cooking (brown or white also works, but there's just something about the wild rice. Or you can use a mixture). Saute leeks and apples in a large pan until brown and softened, then remove.

Coat chicken breasts in flour and parmesan and saute until cooked, in the same pan. Remove.

Deglaze the pan with chicken stock and cider, and boil until reduced by 1/2. A little rosemary is nice here. Swirl in cream if you're feeling decadent, rewarm the apples/leeks in the sauce, and plate with wild rice, chicken breast, and apples/leeks/sauce over all of it. Soooo tasty.

This week's What's Cooking transcript in its entirety.

By Kim ODonnel |  October 16, 2008; 7:00 AM ET Chat Leftovers
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Kim, could you provide details on quantities for the chicken dish? Thanks~

Posted by: Cider Cooking | October 17, 2008 9:13 AM

Cider Cooking: This is a reader-submitted recipe from the chat earlier this week. I've shared all that I've got on this one -- we'll have to ask reader in next week's chat to get the lowdown on quantities.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | October 17, 2008 9:34 AM

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