Jun 29, 2013


Asian Salmon Cooked in a Foil Pouch
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The Hawaiian word lau translates to "leaf" in English. Lau lau simply means "many leaves". Lau lau is also known in Hawaii as a one-dish dinner made by wrapping taro leaves and ti leaves around pieces of salted butterfish, pork butt, beef brisket, chicken thighs, or a vegetable filling. These tropical pouches are then steamed for 3 or 4 hours in a layered steamer, or in the old days, steamed in an imu (underground oven). The results are juicy packages of island goodness with the unique flavor of the taro leaves. Similar Polynesian dishes include Tongan "lupulu" (containing corned beef) and Samoan "palusami" and "fai'ai" (which can contain fish, eel, shrimp, etc. Years ago French chefs started cooking in pouches made out of parchment paper called "en papillote". 

Lau lau is still very popular today in Hawaii, but for the past 30 years, cooks all over the country have been using another more convenient way to make tropical pouches by using aluminum foil. The foil keeps the moisture in so the food actually steams in its own juices, sort of like a mini foil pressure cooker. The trick is to make sure that the foil is tightly closed so the steam doesn't escape. Closing everything up in a pouch steams the protein and vegetables while keeping them moist. One of the great things about foil pouches is that they can be made ahead, then cooked on an outside grill in your backyard or at the beach, or you can cook them in your oven. If you haven't tried cooking this way, it's easy, a lot of fun, and clean-up is a snap.

How to make a foil pouches:
Lay a large sheet of heavy-duty foil (12-inch by 18-inch sheet) on a flat surface. Spray foil with cooking spray. Put the ingredients in the center of the sprayed foil. Bring up foil sides, double fold the top and ends to seal pouch, leaving room for heat circulation. Grill as directed below, or place the pouches on a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 400˚F oven for 18 to 22 minutes depending on what you are cooking and whether you are using the grill or an oven.

Caution: Be careful when unsealing the foil pouches as the escaping steam will be very hot. Be sure and test one of the pouches to make sure that the food is fully cooked before serving. Individual pouches can be eaten right out of the foil, or transfer to a plate with a slotted spatula. Spoon some of the juices over the top and eat immediately.

Recipes for Tropical Foil Pouches:
Lau Lau
Lau lau can be made by using foil instead of ti leaves. Check out this recipe on Reggie's Kaukau Time blog for Hawaiian Pork Lau lau.

Coconut Shrimp 
Toss 1 pound peeled large shrimp, 2 each chopped lemongrass stalks and scallions, 1/3 cup coconut milk and the juice of 1 lime. Divide between 2 foil pouches. Grill over medium heat, 15 minutes, or in the oven at 400˚F. Top with chopped cilantro.

Pineapple-Herb Chicken
Divide 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts among 4 foil sheets. Top with sliced green onions (4 divided), 1 20-ounce can of pineapple chunks, drained, 1 medium red bell pepper thinly sliced and 4 basil leaves, sliced. Spoon a mixture of 1/2 cup of teriyaki sauce, 2 teaspoons of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger, and 1 minced garlic clove, divided over each chicken breast. Sprinkle each with freshly ground pepper, to taste. Fold up the 4 pouches and bake 18-22 minutes on a cookie sheet, or 14-16 minutes in a covered grill, or in the oven at 400˚F. Serve with brown rice.

Asian-Style Ribs
Mix 1/3 cup each hoisin sauce and ketchup, 4 teaspoons Sriracha and 1 1/4 teaspoons each salt, sesame oil and rice vinegar. Coat 2 pounds baby back ribs with the hoisin mixture; place in a single layer on a double sheet of foil and form a pouch. Grill over indirect heat, covered, turning occasionally, 1 hour.

For each serving, place 1 mahi-mahi fillet, 1/2 cup fresh salsa, 4 olives, and olive oil and lime juice on a sheet of foil. Form a pouch. Grill over high heat, 15 minutes.

Asian Salmon
On a sheet of heavy-duty foil, add a bed of kai choi, snow peas or asparagus, topped with thinly sliced lime. Put two 1/2 pound salmon fillets on top of the limes, surrounded by thinly sliced carrot sticks. Put thinly sliced red onion on top of the fish with minced ginger and garlic. Sprinkle everything with tamari or ponzu sauce, and a little sesame oil. Form a tightly closed pouch and steam on a cookie sheet in the oven at 400˚F for about 20 to 25 minutes. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, and serve with rice. Makes 2 servings. (see photo above).

Mustard-Dill Salmon
For each serving, layer a few lemon slices, 1 salmon fillet and some dill sprigs on a sheet of foil. Sprinkle with brown sugar, salt and ground coriander; spread whole-grain mustard on top. Form a pouch. Grill over medium heat, 18 minutes, or in the oven at 400˚F.

Zucchini and Tomatoes 
Toss 2 sliced zucchini, 2 diced tomatoes, 4 smashed garlic cloves, olive oil, basil, and salt and pepper on a sheet of foil. Form a pouch. Grill over high heat, 15 minutes, or in the oven at 400˚F. Top with grated parmesan.

Baby Beets
Toss 1 pound of halved baby beets with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, minced garlic and salt on a sheet of foil. Form a pouch. Grill over medium heat, 30 minutes, or in the oven at 400˚F. Serve hot, garnished with fresh mint and crumbled feta cheese.

Sesame Bok Choy
Toss 1 pound baby bok choy, 1 tablespoon sesame oil and 1 teaspoon each grated ginger and sesame seeds on a sheet of foil. Arrange in a single layer and form a pouch. Grill over medium-high heat, 15 minutes, or in the oven at 400˚F.

Roasted Broccoli
Toss 1 head broccoli florets, 2 sliced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and salt on a sheet of foil. Arrange in a single layer and form a pouch. Grill over medium-high heat, 15 minutes, or in the oven at 400˚F.

Pineapple Donut Cake
Place 1 cake donut on sheet of foil. Mix 1 tablespoon softened butter and 1 tablespoon brown sugar together and spread it over the donut. Place 1 canned pineapple ring on top of the donut. Wrap the donut in a tight flat pouch. Grill over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, or in the oven at 400˚F.

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