Fish en Papiotte

This simple recipe brings back one of my fondest food memories. I prepared this dish in France a few summers ago, when my family exchanged homes with a family from Bordeaux.  Our temporary French home was beautiful but ancient with an oven so small we named it Le Easy Bake.

Whether your oven is big or small, cooking fish in parchment is as easy as it gets. The fish — any variety is fine — is topped with sliced vegetables and a generous pat of flavoured butter and baked in a tidy parcel of parchment. I always enjoy watching my guests tear open their packages, everyone pausing just long enough to inhale the fragrance first. Who wouldn’t love perfectly moist fish, steamed in its own juices and bathed in scented butter?

It doesn’t take a trip to France to create a memorable meal, only the freshest of fish and a courageous amount of butter.

 

Serves four

3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
Kosher salt
1 lb fresh halibut, divided into 4 equal portions, skin removed
2 small sweet yellow peppers, thinly sliced
2 small sweet orange peppers, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp olive and caper butter, recipe below 
4 sprigs thyme
Parchment paper
Egg white, lightly beaten with a fork
Vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Spread the tomatoes on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh thyme and a generous pinch of kosher salt.  Roast in the oven for about 7 to 10 minutes until softened and aromatic.

Cut 4 sheets of parchment large enough to encase the fish and vegetables, measuring about 16” x 12” each.  Fold each sheet in half, leaving four “envelopes” about 8” x 12”.

Open an “envelope” and place one portion of halibut in the centre of one side; season with kosher salt.  Add a quarter of the sliced peppers and roasted tomatoes. Top with a disk of olive and caper butter (about 1 generous tablespoon) and a sprig of fresh thyme.

Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the edges of the parchment with the beaten egg white.   Fold the parchment in half to enclose the fish, and press the edges together to seal.  Fold or crimp the parchment edges to reinforce the packet.  (It’s important to seal the edges properly, to keep the steam in.)   Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the top of the packet with the vegetable oil to prevent it from burning.  Place on a baking tray.

Repeat with remaining ingredients.

If not cooking the fish immediately, refrigerate the packets until ready to cook. Then allow them to warm at room temperature for about 15 to 20 minutes before placing them in the oven.

Bake for about 7 to 8 minutes or until the packets puff up and the fish is just cooked.  Serve immediately on warmed dinner plates.  Allow your guests to open each packet themselves.

 

Olive and Caper Butter
½ cup pitted olives, black and green varieties
3 anchovies fillets, mashed with a fork
2 Tbsp rinsed capers
1 ½ tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tsp hot sauce (Sriracha or chili paste)
½ tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
¼ cup lemon juice
1 cup of butter, softened to room temperature

Combine ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and mix until well combined.  Alternatively, chop the olives, anchovies and capers finely; add the paprika, hot sauce, sugar, lemon juice and softened butter. Check the seasoning, adding more hot sauce, salt and lemon as desired.  It should be piquant with a smoky finish.

Spoon the mixture onto a piece of parchment, wax paper or plastic wrap and roll into a cylinder.  Place in the fridge or freezer until ready to use.

 

 

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