I think by now we have all heard that fish is great for our health! It’s an amazing source of omega 3 fatty acids, which help maintain our cardiovascular health, help us to develop neurologically healthy babies, and aid in reducing tissue inflammation in the body.
However for a long time, the only time I ate fish was when I went out to restaurants. In retrospect I realize this was a bad idea, as the majority of fish found in restaurants is farm-raised unless otherwise specified. Oh well. You live and you learn. The benefits of eating wild fish as opposed to farm-raised is a different post for a different day! I’ll get to that.
Anyhow, I guess I always felt intimidated by preparing fish at home. I’m not sure why though. I think it’s because I just didn’t really know how to prepare it. If I grilled it, it always stuck to the grill. If I baked it, I always overcooked it and overcooked fish just tastes…fishy!
Enter En Papillote, pronounced on-pap-ee-ote. I know it sounds fancy but it’s really not. It’s a method of French cooking that literally just translates to “in paper”. And that’s just what it is. You cook the fish in a pouch made of parchment paper. It works beautifully everytime.
In this particular recipe, I used Thai flavors, because my husband adores any and all things Asian-inspired. It’s kind of a no-brainer for me. But you can absolutely use any flavors you like! If you learn this method, you can tailor it to your tastes.
There are just four components to this method:
- Liquid (this is your flavor agent!)
Ingredients (this is for 4 portions)
- 2 lbs fresh fish, any kind you like (more on how to pick it in a minute). I used wild Atlantic Cod.
- 4 cups mixed vegetables. In this recipe, I used 1 bell pepper- julienned (a.k.a. thinly sliced), 1/2 of a red onion- julienned, 1 zucchini- noodled using my vegetable peeler, and 2 carrots- noodled.
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 inch piece of ginger, grated
- zest and juice of 2 limes
- 1/4 cup coconut aminos (you may use soy sauce)
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp honey
- sea salt and pepper
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
- Cut your parchment paper. You will need about a 12×18 piece for each pocket. Fold each piece in half lengthwise and cut into a heart shape (you know, like you would to make a homemade heart-shaped valentine).
Prepare your vegetables. As I said, in this recipe I used red onion, bell pepper, zucchini and carrots. Feel free to use what you like, just make sure you slice them very thinly because the only cooking will be for a few minutes in the oven. Thinly sliced mushrooms would be great. Boy Choy would be awesome. Spinach even better. I just really enjoy the carrots and zucchini because they become like noodles, yet they retain a bit of crispness- perfect!
- Pile about 1 cup of veggies onto your prepared parchment paper heart. You want to position the veg on the fattest part of the heart. At this time, if using, add your grated ginger, lime zest and garlic on top of the veggies.
- Prepare your sauce. This is where you can get really creative. I used coconut aminos (like soy sauce but better), fish sauce, lime juice and honey. Just play around and taste as you create. If the sauce tastes good, the fish will taste good. You could use white wine, lemon juice, or balsamic vinegar, or just some chicken stock. You just about 1/2 cup total of some sort of liquid in your pouch to steam your fish and vegetables.
- Next prepare your fish. As I said, you can use any sort you like. I chose my fresh fish based on two criteria: 1) What’s the best price that day? 2) What’s the freshest? Obviously the first question you can answer by looking at the prices in the cooler. The second you can accomplish by asking the fish monger what he recommends. Then, ask to see it. It should NOT smell fishy. Fresh fish has no odor. If it smells fishy, it isn’t fresh. Also, the eyes should be clear. If they’re cloudy, it isn’t fresh.
Okay, we have that out of the way. So season your fish liberally with sea salt and pepper and place it on top of your vegetables.
- Beginning at the point of the heart, fold the paper over itself around the veggies and fish. Leave a hole when you get to the top so that you can pour in your sauce. I recommend pouring in your sauce with the pockets on a cookie sheet because they’re a bit awkward to transfer once they have the liquid in them. After you’ve poured in the liquid, finish folding the pocket, tucking the last fold underneath the pocket so that it doesn’t open up. Repeat this with all of your pockets.
- Brush the outside of the parchment paper with oil (any kind, you’re not eating it) so that it doesn’t burn in the oven.
- Bake the pouches (on a cookie sheet) at 400 degrees F for anywhere from 10-14 minutes.
For this cod, I baked for 10 minutes. If you have a thin filet of fish, such as tilapia, 10 minutes will be enough. If you are using a thicker cut of white fish, perhaps a mahi mahi, you’ll need to cook it for more like 12 mintues. Salmon, depending on how you like it cooked with be 12-14 minutes. If you like it medium, go for 12. If you like it well-done, go for 14.
To serve, transfer to a plate and take the whole pouch to the table. Rip open the paper and give yourself a facial with the steam! I served this one with a squeeze of lime and a garnish of cilantro! However you serve it, this makes a beautiful presentation and it turns out moist, flaky and delicious everytime! Enjoy!
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