A classic French dish, poisson en papillote. Baking fish in parchment paper creates amazing flavour and perfectly cooked fish. Don't let the fancy name put you off, the technique is simple to master. Our fish en papillote served with a salsa verde, will look stunning on any table, let us show you how to master this classic.
If like us, you are a big fan of fish and seafood dishes this is a great recipe to try. Similar to our fish marinade recipe. Pairing fish with classic flavours, allows the cooking method and delicious natural flavour of the fish to do all the hard work.
A great recipe for weekend entertaining, making a delicious centerpiece to wow your family and friends.
Baking fish in parchment paper (baking paper).
Cooking in a paper bag or en Papillote is nothing new, a technique perfected in France in the 17th century it means to cook in an envelope. You simply place the fish along with a selection of ingredients onto the paper and seal it. (You can also use foil which can be a little easier to seal.) The beauty of this type of cooking is that you steam and bake at the same time. Producing perfectly cooked fish which is permeated with the flavours of the other ingredients. A great method for cooking whole fish and fillets.
What fish works best for en papillote?
Most fish varieties work well with this cooking method. This recipe uses a delicious whole Tarakihi which is readily available in New Zealand.
Choose a fish that is plate size, trevally, snapper, trout or portions of salmon would all work well.
As ever we recommend getting to know your local fish monger, see what is available and sustainable in your area.
- Whole fish - see our note above regarding what types of fish work best. You can also use fillets for this method. You will need to scale, gut, clean and trim the fins of the fish, you can always ask your fish monger to so this for you.
- Fennel bulb - Fresh fennel is such a classic flavour pairing with fish.
- Red onion - milder and slightly sweet red onion adds a lighter note to the over all flavour.
- Fresh Italian parsley - as known as flat leaf parsley.
- White wine - we recommend using a sauvignon blanc.
- Salt and pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil - select the best quality one you can afford.
How to make fish en papillote.
- Prepare the fish - Rinse under cold running water and pat dry with a baking towel. With a sharp knife make four/ five evenly spaced cuts, cutting down to the spine, do this on both sides.
Pro tip - Making cuts into the flesh, helps the fish cook more evenly.
- Create the base flavour - Use parchment or baking paper making sure it is two and a half times the length of the fish. Place the sliced fennel, parsley stalks, lemon and red onion on one half of the paper. If you have any left over lemon and fennel stalks stuff them in the belly of the fish and season with salt and pepper.
- Envelop the fish in paper - Fold the parchment paper over the length of the fish. Then starting at a folded corner fold over the edge of the paper working your way around the whole piece creating a sealed envelope. Just before you fully seal the paper pour in the wine.
- Cook the fish to perfection - Place on a baking tray and into a 180 °C / 356 °F preheated oven for 25 minutes or until cooked.
- To serve - Place on a serving platter and make a cut down the middle of the paper to reveal the fish, drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil. Serve with our delicious salsa verde (recipe below) and a fresh salad, an orange and fennel salad would work well with this dish.
How long to cook a whole fish.
Measuring at the thickest part of the flesh, a whole fish should reach an internal temperature of 57 °C / 135°F with a instant read food thermometer. You can also check the flesh of the fish, using a sharp knife to gently pull the meat away from the spine. If it flakes away from the bone without resistance, it's cooked.
Other flavour ideas.
The great thing about cooking fish this way is you can get creative with the flavours.
Some great flavour pairings are:
- Fennel, onion, lemon and wine.
- Cherry tomatoes, olives, basil, olive oil and wine
- Bok choy, ginger, chilli, coriander, soy sauce and lemongrass
- Courgettes, potato and pesto
Yum, that list has just made us hungry and we hope we have inspired you to get creative too.
Go with flavours you like and what is available and seasonal for you. But whatever flavour profile you go for the process is always the same. The only change is the cooking time and that depends on the size of your fish.
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Our goal is to share simple, tasty dishes created by Chef Shane and partner, Sara. Using Shane's understanding of flavours and knowledge of food, to teach and inspire you to create delicious food everyday and gain a new level of confidence in the kitchen. Sara understands what it's like preparing weekly dinners for a busy family of five and likes to create dishes that are easy, full of flavour, that the whole family will enjoy.
Whole Fish en Papillote
- 1 Whole fish (800g / 1.7 lb) gutted, scaled, trimmed (See note 1)
- ½ Fennel bulb ½ cm slices
- 1 Lemon ½ cm slices
- 1 Red onion ½ cm slices
- 1 bunch Italian parsley / flat leaf parsley Stalks only, keep the leaves
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- 150 ml White wine (5 fl oz) We recommend a Sauvignon Blanc
- Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Salsa Verde (optional)
- 20 g Italian parsley leaves / flat leaf parsley (0.7 oz) reserved from the stalks
- 15 g Basil leaves (0,5 oz) picked
- 1 clove Garlic
- 2 ea Anchovy fillets
- 1 teaspoon Capers
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 ea Gherkins (small)
- 80 ml Extra virgin olive oil (⅓ cup)
- 30 ml Red wine vinegar (⅛ cup)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Making the Salsa Verde (optional)
- Place all the ingredients into a mini food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
- Remove and store in a sealed jar in the fridge.
Preparing your Fish
- Preheat your oven to 180 °C / 356 °F
- Rinse the whole fish under cold running water to clean. Pat dry with a paper towel.
- Using a sharp knife make four/ Five evenly spaced cuts on each side cutting down to the spine.
- Take a piece of parchment paper/ baking paper that is two and a half times the length of the fish and lay out onto the bench.
- Lay a base of the sliced fennel, parsley stalks, lemon and red onion on one half of the baking paper sheet then place your fish on top of the base vegetables. Place any excess fennel and lemon inside the belly of the fish. Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper.
- Fold the extra length of baking paper over your fish. Starting at a folded end, fold over the edge of the paper working your way around the whole piece, to create a sealed envelope.
- Before you close up the envelope pour in the wine and seal.
Bake the fish
- Place on a baking tray and into your pre heated oven for 25 minutes.
- Once cooked, place the parcel onto your serving board and cut down the center of the paper to reveal the fish, drizzle over the extra virgin olive oil.
- Serve with the salsa verde and a fresh salad.
- This dish can be cooked on a covered BBQ, just switch the paper for foil.