wrapped in love
En Papillote (in paper) is one of my favorite ways to prepare fish. First of all, it’s easy. Very easy. And, it’s creative and fun, which are qualities I always seek out in a dish. I know what you’re thinking... don’t I find all cooking to be fun and creative? Well, for the most part the answer is yes, but this particular dish really gets my crafty juices flowing. I think it comes down to the paper; it’s like food origami (and let’s face it, everyone likes playing with their food). This preparation is so tangible; it brings me back to my hands-on waldorf upbringing. Oh the memories... I love how something as small and simple as folding paper can invoke such powerful memories of childhood.
The preparation is also extremely versatile, and can easily be tweaked for your palate and preferences. You can use just about any fish, and add your favorite vegetables and seasonings. Another bonus... you can do this all ahead of time. Prep your veggies, portion your fish, finish with the seasonings you fancy and wrap up the layers of flavor and love. Place on a sheet pan and stash in the fridge until you’re ready for dinner. It’s fresh, simple, real, easy, creative, and beautiful. What more can you ask for?
I taught a class how to make salmon en papillote with a miso-sesame marinade a few weeks ago, and everyone was blown away with how simple and delicious it was. It’s the perfect last minute Valentine’s Day Dinner that is sure to impress. The preparation and the presentation is effortless; serve it with a side salad or some farro risotto and you’ve got a beautiful meal.
I’ve changed up this recipe a bit, as I’m a big fan of white, flaky fish. I originally had cod or sea bass in mind for this recipe; however Whole Foods had a limited selection after our little winter storm this weekend, so tilapia it is! Tilapia is a lean, white, flaky fish, with a mild and slightly sweet flavor that works perfectly for this dish. And in celebration of this lovely holiday, let’s be extra kitchy and follow the oh-so-romantic color scheme!
for a romantic dinner for two...
2 fillets of cod/sea bass/tilapia (6-8 oz portions of whatever looks freshest; try to get pieces that are the same thickness) 1 red bell pepper, julienned 8-10 stalks of asparagus, cut down to fit in the paper handfull of shitaki mushrooms, thinly sliced ½ blood orange, cut into thin slices chopped scallions sun dried tomatoes (optional) olive oil salt and pepper parchment paper
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Cut parchment into 2 large hearts. Open your hearts and create a layer of larger vegetables on each (asparagus, peppers, mushrooms). Place fish directly on top of the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Top with scallions, sundried tomatoes and blood orange slices.
Now comes the fun. Starting from the rounded end of your heart, fold the paper in half and begin to fold. Make small folds, making sure to create a seal with each fold. Work your way around to the pointy end and fold the excess paper under. You want to be sure that the paper is completely sealed, as you are essentially steaming your fish in the paper (en papillote). Place on a sheet pan, and bake for 10 minutes for a 1" thick piece of fish (bake for 12-15 minutes for a 2" fillet). Serve immediately, in the paper. Place each individual papillote on a plate, tear open from the top, smell the delicious love-filled meal you’ve created and enjoy!
I was inspired to write this for Valentines day, but the more I think of it the more I realize this is also a great dish to create with the whole family. Set out an assortment of vegetables and seasonings and let everyone make their own!