Baking fish in parchment is a fabulous technique that I'd read about for years but didn't try myself until just the other day, inspired by having seen my chef-friend Jody Adams cook some this way in a recent cooking class I attended. Jody, who along with her husband Ken write and shoot the fabulous home-cooking blog, The Garum Factory, prepared a similar dish in her class, and from the first bite I was hooked.
What I love most about cooking fish this way is that each little pouch of goodness is easily customizable for the person its made to feed. The shot above shows a piece of salmon that I prepped for my wife, but as I am not a fan of the fish, my little parchment purse held a lovely piece of cod loin. For this go, the only thing I modified for each diner was the type of fish they were to get, either salmon or cod, but I could totally see making a self-serve "fish bar" where each person gets to select their own mix from an offering of toppings and wrap up their own fully customized fish pocket.
We do this frequently when making homemade pizzas or tacos, and I think the whole hands-on method would work well here too. My friend, Amelia of Z Tasty Life suggested a similar set-up for the twice baked sweet potatoes we made the other day, and I really love the concept. You know me, I'm all for getting everyone in the kitchen and cutting them loose on their own dinner prep. Let the creativity flow here, people.
This post is less about a recipe than it is about a general technique, and a few ideas to get you started. The basic premise is this. Take a fish filet of your choice, season it with a little salt and pepper and lay it atop some thinly sliced veggies. Top the fish with some aromatics, a little fat (in the form of a knob of butter or a drizzle of EVOO), and a spritz of lemon juice or a splash of white wine for a little acidity. Tightly seal all of this goodness in a parchment purse, then bake in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on the type and size of your pieces of fish.
For our first foray into this realm we started by cutting our parchment into heart shapes (Jody's way of adding just a little extra love to the dish), though any shape pouch would work. First in is a layer of thinly sliced fennel (sliced on a mandoline), then the seasoned filets. Next came a spoon of a salad we made by tossing some cherry tomatoes with some fresh mint, cilantro, salt, pepper and EVOO. A drizzle of our best quality olive oil, a splash of white wine, a light sprinkling of fennel pollen (a magical ingredient redolent of licorice), and we were ready to seal and bake our poisson-pockets. These babies turned out super tasty, moist and light…..a huge hit with the whole gang.
This is a wonderful way to prep fish in advance, as you can place the pre-made and sealed pockets on a sheet tray in the fridge up to a few hours before you bake them. Once cooked, make sure to snip a small hole in the top of the parchment to release any pent-up steam before plating, then sit back and enjoy the oohs and aahs as everyone at the table opens the little gift of love that you've made specially for them.
Cheers – Steve
- 6 fish filets of your choice (we used salmon and cod)
- 1 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced on a mandoline, fronds removed and reserved for garnish
- 16 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3 sprigs fresh mint, leaves finely minced
- 4 sprigs fresh cilantro, leaves finely minced
- Dry white wine
- Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
- Fennel Pollen (optional)
- Heat oven to 425℉.
- Cut parchment into a size and shape that when folded over will hold the fish snugly. Lay 1/6 of the fennel on each piece of parchment and top with a piece of fish that has been seasoned with salt and pepper.
- In a small bowl, toss the tomatoes and fresh herbs with a little EVOO, salt and pepper, then spoon it evenly over the pieces of fish. Sprinkle each filet with a few grains of fennel pollen (if using), drizzle with a little EVOO and a quick splash of wine.
- Fold the parchment over the fish, join the open ends, and roll tightly to seal. Place the pouches on a sheet tray and place them in the oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your filets. Our fish was done in about 11 minutes. To test for doneness without fully opening the pouch, pierce the envelope with a small sharp knife and slip it into the center of the fish. Count to 7, pull the knife from the fish a place the tip against your lips, if the blade is very warm, the fish is done.
- Cut a small hole in the top of each pouch to vent the steam, then you can either cut away the top of the parchment before plating, or leave that to each person dining.