Cooking fish has always daunted me, and so for the most part, I eat fish only when I can order it at a restaurant. That is, until a few weeks ago. Out of the blue one day when my thoughts turned to that evening’s dinner, a light bulb went off. I’m going to make fish in parchment!
“En papillote” is French for “in paper” (or parchment), and French words always make every recipe seem classy and sophisticated to this Sicilian’s ears. This Sicilian’s tongue, however, cannot pronounce anything French, so please don’t even ask me to. I hope I’m not spelling it wrong.
One of the great things about this method of preparation is that you can use a variety of fish, vegetables, and seasonings and get a different dish every time. It’s great for a quick meal, but it’s also elegant enough for company. In short, it’s probably one of the most versatile techniques you can have in your repertoire.
The following recipe takes me at the most 40 minutes from starting to serving, and it’s so delicious that we’ve had it for dinner the past two Sunday nights. Also, this is just a guide – feel free to switch out the fish, vegetables, or flavors for an entirely different experience. For example, asparagus is more traditional and elegant than the green beans (or haricot verts, since I’m French today), but I have to be in the right mood for asparagus, so I use green beans. Really, almost any veggie would work. You can even switch out the citrus – perhaps with orange or lime.
Fish en Papillote
2/3 lb. mild white fish (e.g., flounder, cod, tilapia, sole, halibut)
1/2 lb. haricot verts, washed and trimmed
Parsley, fresh or dried, to taste (chop finely if using fresh)
Olive oil, salt, and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil for easy clean-up. Place two large pieces of parchment on the counter.
Divide haricot verts evenly between the pieces of parchment, making a “bed” of beans off to one side. Season the beans with salt and pepper.
Season both sides of fish with salt and pepper and divide evenly between the parchment, placing the fillets on top of the haricot verts beds. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on fish, and sprinkle parsley on top.
Cut lemon in half. Take two thin slices of lemon from each half and place on top of each fish fillet. Squeeze juice from what remains from each half over the fish.
Fold the empty half of the parchment over the fish and vegetables, and crimp sides tightly. Try to fold each of the three sides about three times. Transfer the packets to the prepared baking sheet. Cook for about 20 minutes (give or take, depending on the thickness of your fish) or until fish is opaque and flaky. Cut open parchment packets and serve “en papillote.”