April 16, 2015

Fish en Papillote (Parchment-Baked Fish)



I wish I could take pictures that could better capture the insane layers of flavors in this simple and crowd / lover / belly pleasing dish.

Now, this is one of my favorite recipes of all — the kind of recipe where there is no realllll recipe. Your tongue is the recipe. Your tongue calls all the shots here so just blindly follow it! Trust the tongue. Folding the parchment might seem intimidating, but it’s not…it’s not like this is an origami lesson and you’re going to get quizzed later. You just have to make sure the parchment is sealed tight, so the fish can steam up in there and cook to perfection. How you get there? That’s your business.

Shall we begin? Let’s begin…


  • three dried or fresh shiitake mushrooms / (OR BOTH, which is best)
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • two-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 2 (or 3 if you cray like me) Serrano chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 1 large piece parchment paper
  • Toasted sesame oil (upon my second testing I decided toasted sesame oil was 10x more flavorful than hot pepper sesame oil)
  • salt and pepper (P.S., the only salt I will use now until the end of time is Diamond Crystal kosher salt; it has the best texture and flavor (you can be heavy-handed with it!)
  • A filet of your favorite fish (cod, halibut, fluke -- I did cod and decided I hate cod. Did again with fluke, loved it)
  • white pepper (optional)
  • Mirin (in the Asian aisle of your grocery store (yep where they sell Asians) and always at Whole Foods or Asian markets)
  • 1 small bunch scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced


I know. That’s a lot of parenthesis/not a lot of numbers for an ingredient list but it’s important for you to know that the possibilities are endless here. I have done this recipe a couple times and I will say this… do MORE than you think of everything and your tastebuds and nose will be soooooo pleased when you tear open that paper. I promise.

First things first:


If using dried shiitakes, bring some water to a simmer on the stove top. Use about twice as much water as you will mushrooms. Once the water is hot, remove from heat, toss in a handful or so of shiitakes and press down with a spoon to submerge. Right now, you are making a nice little mushroom broth that you will lightly spoon over the fish before baking. Let them soak for 30 minutes, then squeeze out the excess liquid and reserve both the mushrooms and the liquid. You can either use THESE mushrooms from the broth in your recipe, or cut up your fresh shiitake to sprinkle over the top. I like the broth the dried shiitakes makes, but prefer to use fresh as the ones I’m eating. Make sense? I know. I’m rather long winded here.

Let this sit as you prepare your veg.

Mince or garlic press your garlic — I think for one long filet I did 6-8 cloves, for real. Peel and finely mince or grate your ginger. Enough to match what you’ve done with the garlic, or slightly more if you love ginger like me. Finely chop the serranos. Thinly slice the green onion. Slice zucchini about 1/4 inch thick.


Prepare your parchment. Make sure it’s cut large enough to accommodate your little fish friend! you’ll need a few inches around the border to make room for the height of the fish and the wrapping up of the sides. Keep it rectangular, cut round edges, make a heart, a star of david. Who cares. Just make him a nice little home he can be wrapped up in!


Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lay the parchment onto a sheet pan and add your sesame oil in a freeform splash, making sure it covers  around the same surface area as your piece of fish (meaning the fish will lie on a bed of sesame oil)! I was more than a little heavy-handed here — blotted a bit off post-photo.


Add the ginger, garlic, chillies, scallions, and then arrange the zucchini on top in an angled single layer. Heavily season with salt and pepper….heavily. Remember, we are going for flavor country here. The garlic and ginger will look like a lottttt of garlic and ginger but go with it! It’ll be delicious.



Oh, it looks good.

Next, lay your fish on top. Season again with salt and pepper. If you have white pepper, do a dash of that too. Because god, white pepper is awesome and this is like a tiny little UPS package of everything awesome.


Now take a small little dish and add some spoonfuls of that mushroom broth to it (of not, add some water). Then add a little splash of mirin and some salt and pepper. I know. More salt and pepper. Cut up your mushrooms (the fresh, or the dried if you chose to use them — the dried shiitakes have a naturally more rubbery texture, some people love this). My photo shows the first time when I used the dried, but the second time I used fresh. I prefer fresh and only used the dried mushrooms to make broth.


Put the sliced mushrooms on top of your fish and spoon a couple spoonfuls of the broth / mirin mixture on top. Also add more of the chillies, green onions, ginger and garlic if you have any left!


Time to wrap! There is surely a technique to this, but not one that I am great at. As with anything, you’ll get better the more you do this. I didn’t leave enough room because I’m stupid and I just like telling other people to leave enough room. Since the technique is kind of hard to type out, here! I found some random lady on youtube doing it. click for random lady.


Bake for about 15 minutes. Smaller, thinner fish = less time. Something half this size is probably around 6-8 minutes. Don’t overcook! We are just steammmmming this little beauty.




I’m sure that you, like me, will eat this and come up with a few little alterations of your own. Me, I obviously love salt, super spiciness, garlic and ginger. I find the criminal sin of the home cook is to not season (salt and pepper) at nearly every step. I season everything. Everything gets love. EVERYTHING.

Also did you know that a pinch is basically 3 of your fingers coming together, saying ‘let’s do this, bitches’ to each other and grabbing as much salt as they possibly can? Before school, I thought a pinch was how I pinch John’s booty — thumb and pointer. No. Get that middle finger involved too. Menage. A. Trois.

Anyhoo, make it once, make your changes. I’m sure a nice little squiggle of sriracha before baking would be the tits on this.

What other flavors do you wanna try ? Curious to hear, as this technique is gonna be a staple in my home. Well a staple when I’m pseudo-dieting / trying to be somewhat healthy at least. I mean it’s great. REALLY great. But fish….well, it ain’t no fried chicken.


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