Dish of the Week: Fish en Papillote
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.
Photo by stu_spivack Sealing the package traps in the moisture to steam the food inside.
This week, we're sharing a recipe for fish en papillote .
French for "in parchment," en papillote is a method of cooking food inside a folded pouch or parcel, typically made of parchment paper, but sometimes with aluminum foil or paper bags. The food is placed inside, often with a bit of wine, water, or stock, and the parchment is overlapped and folded until it is sealed tightly. As the parcel bakes, the trapped moisture heats and forms steam inside the packet, evenly cooking the food without losing any flavor.
While en papillote is a French term that dates back to the 17th century, the method of steaming food inside pouches has been used around the world for much longer. Banana and cassava leaves are used in Malaysia and Indonesia, cornhusks and plantains in Latin America, and water lotus leaves in China. In Italy, parchment is also used, but it is referred to as al cartoccio.
The method is typically used to cook fish, vegetables, and thin cuts of poultry. Herbs and spices are added so that when the pouch is opened at the table, the experience is fully aromatic.
This basic recipe uses fresh herbs, white wine, butter, and lemon to create a sauce that gently coats the fish as it steams. The method stays the same, so feel to change the flavors, adding whatever herbs, vegetables (julienned zucchini, shallots, leeks, carrots, mushrooms, spinach, etc.), spices (crushed red pepper, garlic, ginger, curry, Chinese five spice), or other ingredients (soy, citrus, coconut oil) that you have on hand.
Fish en Papillote serves 4
4 4 to 6-oz fish filets (cod, halibut, sole, flounder)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 tbsp butter
1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded
Fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, fennel fronds, dill, chives, rosemary, oregano -- the more the merrier)
1/4 cup white wine
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (if using thinner filets, decrease temp to 375).
Season the fish with salt and pepper on both sides and place each in the center of one side of a large square, circle, or cut out heart of parchment paper (if using vegetables, place down first and arrange the fish on top). Top each filet with 1 tbsp of butter, one or two lemon slices, and fresh herbs. Spoon 1 tbsp white wine over the fish.
Fold the parchment over itself to enclose the fish. Then starting at one end, make small overlapping folds, sealing the edges and creating a half-moon shape. Two inches from each end, twist the parchment twice to firmly seal the package.
Repeat with remaining packets and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.
Serve the fish directly in the packets, allowing each guest to open and experience the aromas.
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