Cooking fish can be intimidating. It’s messy, it has a tendency to dry out, and flipping it midway through cooking often makes it fall apart. Which sucks, because fish is delicious and good for you. But there is another way — a way that doesn’t ask you to even touch the fish during cooking and takes only 15 minutes. The method is called en papillote in French, and translates to “in parchment paper.”
Here’s how to do it. You can find parchment paper in any grocery store next to the foil and plastic wrap.
First, prep ingredients all ingredients that you want to put into the packet.
In terms of ingredients and combinations, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Only one fish portion per package — think about 6 ounces. Any kind of fish will work, but use skinless fillets if you can, because the fish skin will get soggy when steamed.
2. On top of the fish, you can pile herbs, vegetables, citrus, garlic, and of course butter never hurts. Just don’t put anything inside your parcel that won’t cook in 15 minutes. If you insist on doing so (like, say, you REALLY love potatoes), cook them almost all the way through BEFOREHAND, then finish them in the parchment with your fish. And use common sense — if you want to include carrots, they should be cut into matchsticks so they cook very quickly.
3. After that, you’ll need a couple spoonfuls of some kind of liquid to steam the fish. You can use water, but using wine, soy sauce, citrus juice, or something else with a strong flavor will make your fish especially delicious.
4. Never underestimate the power of salt and pepper.
Next, fold a piece of parchment paper in half and cut it in the shape of a heart. Make sure it’s large enough to hold all ingredients:
I guess the heart shape isn’t 100% necessary, but it will make each parcel easier to seal. You’ll see.
Now, open the parchment and pile everything into the middle of one of the folded halves:
Oil or whatever liquid should go in last, so that it doesn’t have time to run all over the place.
Fold one half of the heart on top of the other, and seal with small, overlapping folds from one end to the other:
It should look like this:
It doesn’t have to be totally air tight, but the parcel shouldn’t come apart when you pick it up.
Put parcels on a baking sheet and cook in a 425°F for about 15 minutes:
A 6-ounce fillet will take about 15 minutes to cook through, but you can’t test doneness because you don’t want to open the parchment during cooking. When in doubt, leave the fish in for a few extra minutes; all the moisture in the steaming parcel will keep it from overcooking and drying out.
Rip the parchment open at the dinner table and the cloud of steam that rushes out will smell fantastic, and impress your dining companions.
TO GET YOU STARTED, HERE ARE SOME IDEAS:
1. Grilled Fish in Parchment with Dill and Summer Squash
On days when it’s too hot to turn on the oven, use the grill instead. Recipe here.
4. Asian-Style Snapper with Spinach, Peppers, and Mushrooms
Fish sauce makes everything better. Recipe here.
5. Salmon with Cabbage and Carrots
As Martha says, “Because parchment paper traps in steam during cooking, the fish stays moist without the addition of oil or butter.” Easy and healthy. Recipe here.
6. Striped Bass with Lemon, Shiitake, and Baby Bok Choy
7. Salmon with Thyme and Oranges
Use blood oranges to really make the dish pop. Recipe here.
9. Whole Trout with Spicy Honey Plum Chutney
You can even cook WHOLE FISH in parchment paper! Be prepared to eat around some bones, though. Recipe here.
11. Tilapia with Dijon, Tomatoes, and Capers
Mustard and capers add a spicy, salty kick. Recipe here.
12. Trumpeter with Braised Cabbage, Mushrooms, and Coriander
Trumpeter, also known as winter whiting, is an Australian white fish. For those of us who don’t live Down Under, snapper is a great substitute. Recipe here.