Cooking Fish in Parchment “En Papillote” is Foolproof

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Fish in Parchment "En Papillote"

Fish in Parchment “En Papillote”

Prep 10 mins   Cook 15 mins   Eat 25 mins
Cooking Fish in Parchment Paper has to be one of the easiest and most foolproof methods to prepare fresh fish. As a cooking teacher, students tell me about their “Fear of Fish”.  Yet, once you learn how to cook fish and tell when it is done, you will want to make it again and again.

Dee with Fish for 12 at our La Cocina que Canta class at the Rancho La Puerta Spa.

Dee with Fish for 12 at our La Cocina que Canta class at the Rancho La Puerta Spa.

This method of cooking fish in parchment is the perfect answer when you are preparing a dinner party for 12 or less. You can prep it ahead of time and place it in the oven 15 minutes before you want to serve it. When you include lots of veggies, it is a meal in itself. On top of it, you can customize the contents for your guest’s food preferences or allergies by having veggie packets or using a chicken breast in place of the fish. If you are really brave, you can have your guests make their own Parchment Packet as I’ve done in my cooking classes. You can write the name of each guest and “Fish”, Chicken” or “Veggie” on the parchment before you begin to fill the contents.  I’ve done this for a kid’s birthday party and it was a huge hit.  The kids went home and made it for their parents.  A true test of an easy recipe!

Preparing Fish in Foil with a White Sea Bass and veggies at Rancho La Puerta.

Preparing Fish in Foil with a White Sea Bass and veggies at Rancho La Puerta.

I recently put Fish in Parchment on the menu when I taught a class at Rancho La Puerta Spa’s La Cocina que Canta (The kitchen that sings). Why? Because this method couldn’t be healthier. While I call it “En Papillote”, you can also use foil instead of parchment paper, especially when you have a crowd. This way, you can place 5 or 6 pieces of fish side by side on a long piece of foil, top it with veggies and fold it over and seal three sides by folding over the foil twice. Make sure you start with a large enough piece of foil, so you have enough to fold it over twice.

The foil method was easy for serving a lot of people.  We prepared 2 of them for 12 people.  Be careful when you open the packet, as burning steam will escape.

The foil method was easy for serving a lot of people. We prepared 2 of them for 12 people. Be careful when you open the packet, as burning steam will escape.


This recipe is a road map to many different recipes based on what is in your kitchen. The concept is to steam your ingredients in the parchment packet. You can use a fish filet, a chicken breast or just vegetables. You can vary the flavors with different vegetables, herbs and spices. For vegetable packets, a large swiss chard or kale leave is a nice base to pile other vegetables on top of.  Everything gets extremely hot, so be careful when you open the packet.

Paper Chef Parchment Paper is a quality product for the job.  Assemble ingredients near the fold on top of the fish filet or chicken breast.  Fold over the paper from left side to right. Bake four to a baking sheet.

Paper Chef Parchment Paper is a quality product for the job. Assemble ingredients near the fold on top of the fish filet or chicken breast. Fold over the paper from left side to right. Bake four to a baking sheet.

Start with a 12″ x 15″ piece of parchment paper.  Fold it in half so it is 7 1/2″ x 12″.  Have a marking pen ready and write name and contents on the top flap if you are customizing packets.  Fill the packet, fold over to cover the contents and seal the packet by starting to fold over a small 1″ piece of paper 1/2″ on the left side near the crease.  Continue to make small 1″ folds all the way around until you reach the fold on the right side.  When you are done, the edge where the folds are will be shaped like an exaggerated smile.  Using a spatula, scoop up the parchment packet and place it on a baking tray.  You can fit 4 packets on a large tray.  We had one tray for fish, one for chicken and one for veggie packets.  The chicken will take longer to cook, so keep them all together.

I used a base of spinach leaves under the black cod and added a parsley, lemon and oregano gremolata to flavor the fish this time,

I used a base of spinach leaves under the black cod and added a parsley, lemon and oregano gremolata to flavor the fish this time,

Use dried herbs inside your packet and fresh herbs to garnish with after cooking.  The fresh herbs will turn black from the cooking.  In this packet, I made up a gremolata by mixing ,minced garlic, chopped parsley, fresh oregano, lemon zest and olive oil.

Breaking open the parchment from the top makes a pretty presentation.

Breaking open the parchment from the top makes a pretty presentation.

The presentation can be in the packet or you can slide the contents onto the plate, whichever you prefer.  Serve it by itself or with a side of rice or kamut to absorb the good juices that will be seeping out onto your plate.

If you like this idea, another recipe to try is Salmon Poached in Foil.

*Paper Chef gave me the parchment paper for recipe testing.

Print this Recipe

Parchment Packets “En Papillote”

4 12 x 15 parchment paper pieces
4 chicken breasts or fish filets
pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large  garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs ginger root, peeled, minced (optional)
1 Tbs lemon grass, minced (optional)
2 zucchini, 1/4 x 1/4 x 3″
2 carrots, peeled and cut 1/4 x 1/4 x 3″
1/4 pound green beans, sliced on diagonal to 2″ pieces
1/4 pound mushrooms sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs white wine
2 Tbs fresh herbs, such as basil, oregano, marjoram

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Fold each of the pieces of parchment paper in half.   Open the parchment and lay them out on a work surface.  Drizzle a little olive oil in the center of the paper near the crease.  Place chicken breast or fish filet on one half of parchment near the middle of the crease.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle garlic, minced ginger or lemon grass and spices or dried herbs over each filet (fresh herbs are added after cooking)  Place vegetables on top of the filet.  Drizzle with small amount of olive oil and white wine. Enclose all ingredients by folding over from one end of the crease to the other until it is sealed.  Lift up packet with a spatula and place on a baking sheet.  Packets can be made in advance until this point.

2. Bake packets in a preheated 350° oven for 15-20 minutes.  Chicken will take a little longer than fish. Parchment paper will have turned a light brown. Do not open packets until you are ready to serve, as the contents will continue to cook until you open it.  Be careful, as hot steam will escape when opened.

3. To serve, place packet on the plate. When ready to eat, open the packet and pour out contents gently onto the plate and discard parchment packet. Garnish with fresh herbs.  Healthy and delicious!

Servings: 4    387 calories per serving

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Oven Temperature: 350°F

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