The French term en papillote refers to food baked inside a wrapping of greased parchment paper. The food item plus flavouring ingredients is tightly enclosed so the steam cannot escape. When heated the food steams in its own moisture. All the juices, flavours and aromas are held inside the paper. As the food bakes and lets off steam, the parchment puffs up into a dome shape. It’s fun to create a little drama at the table when the paper is split and peeled back to reveal the food.
I remember the many dramas played out in Leonardo’s Italian restaurant in the
Kings Road, London, when they served their signature dish, pasta in a paper bag. There was always a great flurry of excitement when the parcel arrived, held high, with much shouting and laughing. Then a hushed silence filled the room, the moment of trepidation the instant before opening and then a bang as the steam exploded followed by loud boisterous cheering and clapping. Such fun!
Fish works well in paper and I can tell you how to go about all of that, no worries but as to how Leonardo cooked his pasta inside that bag is a complete mystery to me!
For each piece of fish tear off a very large piece of baking (parchment) paper and fold in half. Cut out a heart shape (see photo below). Grease the cut hearts with a little oil. Lay the paper hearts, greased side down, on the work surface.
Hot oven: 230C - fan forced 200C
4 x 200g ling fillets or any firm, white, boneless fish
1 small red pepper, julienned
1 small yellow pepper, julienned
1 small green pepper, julienned
1 small carrot, julienned
1 large thumb fresh ginger, julienned
2 whole, peeled garlic cloves, sliced
4 spring onions, julienned
1 small leek, julienned
1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, smashed then finely sliced
1 large red chili, deseeded, julienned
4 coriander roots, scraped and sliced
1 lemon slice, squeezed
dash dry white wine
dash fish stock
(50g butter to monter – diced, cold from the fridge - optional)
Sea Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste
Mix all the above ingredients together. You might find there are too many vegetables so use discretion – a little looks better than a lot. Use the leftovers for something else.
- Place the fish fillets on one side of each heart. Add the topping and seasoning.
- Fold over the other half of the heart. Starting at the top of the fold, make a small crimp in the edges (like making a Cornish pasty).
- Continue crimping around the edge. Each crimp holds the previous one in place.
- Just before the end pour in a dash of white wine and a dash of fish stock.
- Crimp the last bit and fold the point under to hold it in place. The papillotes are now ready for cooking.
- Place the folded parcels in a large sauté pan (hob to oven). Set the pan on a medium heat and as soon as the paper begins to puff out, place them in the oven. Bake until completely puffed and browned, about 12-15 minutes.
- Serve immediately at the table in front of each guest.
The parcels contain the moisture released from the fish, wine, stock, lemon juice etc… and this is okay to serve as is but you might like to turn this liquid into a proper sauce. In which case, very carefully open each parcel and pour off the contents into a small saucepan. Bring the liquid up to boil point and whisk in the diced, cold butter piece by piece until you have a glossy, thickened sauce. This procedure to finish a sauce is known as: monter au beurre. Carefully pour the sauce back into the parcels (down the sides of the fish, not over the top) and re-close the openings. Or serve the sauce on the side.
ling en papillote printable version, click here: