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Fish en Papillote
This was my first attempt at cooking fish in parchment. I was inspired to try after having one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever eaten at il tutto giorno in Southampton. This recipe is my attempt to duplicate what I had there, with many thanks to our waiter who shared the ingredients with me. It was amazing!
Fresh green beans, a couple of large handfuls— you will need approximately 10 per “pouch”
Green and dark (I used Kalamata, thinking black would be too strong flavor-wise) pitted olives, about 5 of each kind per pouch
24-30 sweet cherry tomatoes
4 tsp. capers
Four 5 oz. striped bass, skinless filet pieces
1/2 pound fresh spinach, roughly chopped
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt + pepper to taste
8 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 pieces of parchment paper, each roughly 18 x 13 inches
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
Fold each piece of parchment in half, and then open on your counter. I put the parcels in a line so I could assemble—like an assembly line. It was very easy. You will be folding one half over the other to seal the parcels, so I used the right side of each (the right side of the fold line) to place ingredients. Brush olive oil from the fold line to about 3/4 out on each parchment parcel bottom. You will be dividing your ingredients into four as you go along.
Starting at the fold, place the 10 or so string beans. They will serve to raise the fish to allow it to steam. Next place the fish on top of the string beans. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add olives, cherry tomatoes around the fish, and the capers on top of the fish. Drizzle a 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil over each. Put a handful of spinach on top of each piece of fish. Use as much as you can. On top of the spinach, place 2 sprigs of fresh thyme. Make sure you don’t place ingredients too close to the outer edge. Leave approx. 1/2 inch or more on the 3 open sides for closing.
Fold the top piece of parchment over the now filled bottom. There are many methods to seal the parchment. Please see online videos! The thing is, you want them to stay closed while you are cooking, so they must be sealed. I did it the easy way. I folded each of the 3 open sides in 1/4 inch (top and bottom together) and pressed it tight, and then folded it over again, pressing it closed. Then, as one of the recipes I saw online recommended, I used a metal paper clip for good measure to secure each folded side. (When I served, I took the paper clips off! I do have my standards!)
Place parcels on a baking sheet. I put 2 parcels on each sheet. Cook for 25 minutes. Take out of the oven and place one fish en papillote on each plate, with a lemon wedge on the side. Once everyone is seated, cut open the parchments. Advise guests to remove the thyme twigs. It’s a great dinner party dish as you can prepare the parcels before your guests arrive—but not too far ahead of time. It is both elegant and delicious!
Chef’s Note: There are many variations you can try. Halibut would also be a great choice for this dish. Other recipes call for leeks to raise the fish, instead of the green beans, and thinly sliced lemon slices can be added on top of the fish. Using combinations of fish and vegetables that are available fresh, you cannot go wrong!