Recipe: Easiest Impressive Home Cooked Dinner, Ever

I realize that's a big title to claim, and one that will open this forum up with literally thousands of questions, arguments, and rampant finger pointing and put me up for more scrutiny than the hairstyles of the mid-70's.

Looking for a terrific way to serve an impressive main course that's mostly prepped in advance, leaving you more time to spend with your guests? This recipe is for you.

If you've invited boors over, may I suggest you serve roasted boar. Boar/boor takes hours of constant attention, giving you a great excuse to be away from your guests and time to contemplate how to avoid inviting such cretins over ever again. This is a terrific time to drink too much in private as well! Falling down is a great diversion.

The recipe/dish I'm featuring is poisson en papillote for those of us who speak French. For me, fish in parchment paper. Each guest is served a packet" and every aspect of this meal is simple -- preparation, cooking, serving and cleanup. Let's be honest, I often treat my dirty dishes like boring people, I just toss 'em in the trash. There's always more plates. And people.

For this dish, I use halibut or sea bass; however, you have to remove bones from sea bass. Not fun, unless the servants leave a straggler bone in the fish and you get to beat them later. I try not to miss those sessions and keep a roll of nickels in my oven mitt.

You can prepare the paper packets hours before. Put them in the fridge to keep until ready to bake.

If your first course is my chilled avocado, cucumber, yogurt and wasabi soup, make that in advance. Then all you need to do to get ready of this dinner is throw on a frock, drag some lipstick across your mouth, and greet your guests. But that's just me, you ladies might have a few more steps to get ready for guests. Get your Chardonnay on, update your Facebook status that you are super excited and about to have #, #, #, and # over for dinner. Don't forget to promise pics later. But don't ever post them. People hate that.

You needn't worry about dessert, one of your guests is bound to show up with squished cupcakes that appear a little licked. Or most of a German chocolate cake from Safeway that "was just about to spoil and we only ate one piece off it".

What you need (for this dinner, not for life in general):

Parchment paper cut into 20" sheets, folded in half.
One Leek per serving. The white part and about 4 inches of the green, sliced into thin ribbons (think Angelina Jolie's arms).
Fish. About palm size portion (not munchkin-size, not big-ass; now think Brad Pitt).
Lemons sliced in rounds.
Carrots sliced thin and sauteed in balsamic till almost tender.
Fresh tomatoes cut in quarters, added to the carrots in balsamic near the end (not of the world).
Asparagus added raw (you guys are still thinking about Brad Pitt, huh?).
Oyster mushrooms (cause they're curly and interesting). Also raw.
Thyme. I get it. it's a bitch plucking all the tiny leaves off. Just throw some sprigs on top.
Salt and pepper. Not the rap duo, the spices.
Truffle oil (Get over it, if you can afford to guests over you can spring $14 bucks for a tiny bottle of the stuff). Or EVOO.

Saute the leek ribbons in a small amount of butter and olive oil until limp. Drain on paper towel (or rub the excess oil on your body as moisturizer #SpaTip).

Cut the folded parchment paper into a heart shape. Open your heart, and place a mound of the sauteed leeks  on one side of the paper.

Place the fish on top of the leeks. Salt and pepper that layer. It takes 16 pinches to equal a teaspoon of salt, and you must season each layer of food, to properly season throughout.

Then add the sauteed carrots and tomatoes, some asparagus spears, top with the mushrooms, throw a few sprigs of thyme on, and drizzle it with the huile de truffe.


Close the open side of the paper with little folds to seal it up. Pretend you're in the Japanese Royal household - if any steam escapes the pouch during cooking, you'll have to perform an act of hari kari (leaning onto the bizness end of a big knife until you die).


The packets don't have to be sealed, just crimp closed.

Place in a pre-heated (400 degrees) oven and bake for 15 minutes. Just enough time to serve your chilled, pre-made soup.

Remove the packets from the oven, slide onto the plate, and serve. You get to sit your ass down and pretend to enjoy your guests.

Your guests rip open the packet like a savage, and devour.

Cleanup s a breeze! When everyone's finished, clear the table Simply slide the entire remaining packet into the compost/trash/out-the-window/dog's dish, or whatever disposal method you're currently using. You barely even have to wash the plates. In fact, sometimes I don't.

To review: You make the fish packets in advance and place them in the fridge. Remove 30 minutes before your dinner prep, place on counter to take the chill off before you put them in a hot oven (380 degrees) for about 20 minutes. Slide on plate, tear into packet, slide paper in the trash.

You've spent less time in the kitchen that Sarah Jessica Parker, and come off as an entertaining genius.

Move on to dessert. You've been so worry free you've had time to ponder that age-old question: Who licked the frikken cupcakes?!

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