Baking fish en papillote is one of my favorite things to make when we have guests over.
Mad love to my dear friend Chef Eric for brainstorming this simple, Asian-inspired holiday dish with me over lunch the other day. <3
Parchment baked fish steaks are fast and easy (and pretty damned fancy)
These Icelandic cod steaks are moist, meaty, and fragrant with Chinese flavors, including soy, ginger, garlic, rice wine, chili, and a variety of earthy mushrooms.
A dusting of freshly grated blood orange zest adds a pop of brightness, and a sprinkle of Nori seaweed flakes rounds the whole shebang out with some salt and umami.
Seriously, this whole situation is just so delicious.
This post includes background on the ingredients, a step-by-step photo recipe (so you can cook along), and a printable recipe card at the end.
What does “en papillote” mean, anyway?
So, “en papillote” is just a fancy-pants way of saying that you bake your food sealed in a parchment paper bundle.
The parchment paper creates this beautiful little insulated cocoon, so your food roasts and steams at the same time.
(If you chronically dry stuff out in the oven, try this method for fab results.)
It also makes for a dramatic presentation when you bring the pan to the table and cut the parchment open.
These fish steaks are great when you have people pop over on short notice.
Which seems to happen to us all the time, especially around the holidays. (Just hop down to the fish market and see what looks good.)
They also make a preposterously delicious and speedy weeknight meal.
And with the holidays coming up, baking fish in parchment has (nearly) all the gravitas of a big, meaty roast…with at least 1000% less muss and fuss.
The best part? You can get them from fridge to table in just about 30 minutes.
The secret to baking fish en papillote
If there’s one thing you need to know about baking fish in parchment paper, it’s this: It cooks FAST, like 15-20 minutes, depending on how thick your steaks are.
You need to take that into consideration when you add anything else to the packet.
That means that anything you include with it needs to be cut pretty thin/small, so it cooks in the same amount of time and is ready when your fish is done.
So, you don’t want to include, say, giant hunks of root vegetables or small whole potatoes.
They just won’t cook through.
Whatever you include in your parchment bundle, slice it thin or into small pieces.
What is Icelandic cod? What other kinds of fish can you use?
Icelandic cod is one of my favorite fish.
It’s a thick, meaty white fish that makes a really filling meal.
It’s wild-caught using hook-and-line fishing in the frigid waters off Iceland.
I usually get it at Rowand’s Fish Market in Beverly. (More on them in an upcoming post.)
Icelandic cod is most often sold in boneless, skinless fillets or loins.
For this recipe, look for thicker cuts that you can whack into individual steaks.
How much fish do you need per person?
For a main course, count on roughly 1/2 lb. of fish per individual.
Cut your steaks the same size, so they cook evenly.
This recipe works great with most thick, meaty fish.
If you can’t find Icelandic cod, look for Mahi Mahi, haddock, Chilean sea bass, etc.
When in doubt, ask your fishmonger. They’re usually super happy to make recommendations.
What kind of mushrooms should you use?
My answer for this kind of question is usually: Whatever looks freshest and best at the market.
That said, here’s what I used this time.
These tall, meaty mushrooms are one of my favorites. They’re great cut in half and grilled over a wood fire. They hold their shape really well.
Shimeji or Beech mushrooms
One type of over 20 varieties of oyster mushrooms, shimeji mushrooms have a firm texture and delicate, almost shellfish-like flavor. (So, they’re great with fish.)
I just love these little clusters.
These guys are also known as the dancing mushroom, because people would dance for joy when they found them in the wild.
It has a more delicate (but still pretty meaty) texture. This is one of my favorite medicinal mushrooms.
I mean, the mushrooms are just so glorious:
What else goes into this recipe?
You can find most of this stuff in the International section of a well-stocked grocery store.
Black sesame seeds add flavor, color contrast, and crunch.
I mean, look at them:
Rice cooking wine. You can also use Mirin, which is a sweetened variety of rice wine.
You could also use sweetened rice wine vinegar, but cut the amount in half because it’s stronger.
Soy sauce. I get the regular kind, but you could also use mushroom soy if you want to dial up the umami a little.
Nori seaweed. I cut this glossy black seaweed into ribbons as a garnish.
Chili peppers. Use the kind you like based on how much heat you’re after. I love using red, not green, for the burst of color.
If you don’t like hot stuff, use a red bell pepper that you slice into matchsticks. Totally up to you.
What kind of parchment paper do you need?
Here’s the parchment paper I used.
You can find it in most grocery stores, or home/culinary stores like William Sonoma, Sur La Table, Home Goods or Bed, Bath & Beyond, etc.
Parchment paper comes bleached and unbleached, depending on your preference. Both perform the same.
Some people prefer to avoid bleached stuff in the kitchen for health reasons.
A lot of folks also use this same method, but with aluminum foil. That works, too, from a functional point of view.
These days, I try to avoid cooking with aluminum anything because of all the links medical types have found between aluminum and Alzheimer’s and a bunch of other nasty ailments.
Use whatever you’re comfortable with.
OK, enough yapping. To the ovens!
Icelandic Cod En Papillote (Parchment Baked Fish Steaks)
For the Fish
4 Icelandic cod steaks (about 1/2 lb. each)
1 – 1 1/2 lbs. assorted mushrooms, sliced thinly
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 small finger of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 fresh red chili peppers, seeded and cut into matchsticks
2 Tablespoons black sesame seeds
1/4 cup rice wine
1/4 cup soy sauce
For the Garnish
Nori, cut into ribbons
Fresh blood orange, tangerine, or orange zest
Do a little prep
Preheat your oven to 450-degrees F.
Grab a sheet pan or large baking dish. Set it aside.
Set 2 large pieces of parchment paper down on the counter, overlapping like this:
Assemble your fish en papillote
Lay down a bed of sliced mushrooms.
Your fish is going to go on top of them. Don’t make yourself crazy with this. Just try to cover the center of the paper evenly.
Leave a few inches on all sides of the mushrooms. You’ll need room to roll up the paper to seal it.
Place your Icelandic cod steaks on top of the bed of mushrooms.
Leave a little room in between them. Doesn’t have to be much. Just don’t mash ’em up against each other.
When you’re done, snuggle the mushrooms underneath the fish more, so just the ends are poking out. This is to make a more compact bundle.
Next, nestle the rest of your mushrooms around the fish.
Sprinkle the top evenly with sliced chili and ginger and chopped garlic.
Get some of each on every piece of fish.
Sprinkle with black sesame seeds.
Sprinkle evenly with soy sauce and rice wine.
Fold your parchment paper bundle
Grab the long sides of the parchment paper and bring them together.
Roll the paper, so it folds down over itself and toward the fish. Squeeze and crease the paper to keep it sealed.
Fold the short edges of the paper in a “V” shape, just like you would when wrapping a gift.
Roll them up and squeeze to cinch tightly.
And, VOILA! Here’s your fish en papillote.
Transfer your parchment paper bundle to the baking dish or sheet pan you’ve set aside.
Just plop it right in. No need to grease the pan, etc.
Bake your Icelandic cod en papillote
Slide your pan into your pre-heated, 450-degree F oven.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the paper is starting to brown, and the fish is opaque, firm and cooked through.
How long it will take depends on how thick your fish is.
If they’re over an inch thick, I’d do 20-25 minutes.
When it’s done, remove it from the oven. Cool on a rack for 5-10 minutes.
Cut your parchment bundle open!
And…now for the big reveal! Open the bundle by cutting one long slice down the center.
Use a set of kitchen sheers or the tip of a very sharp kitchen knife.
Be CAREFUL here, it will release a lot of steam, keep your hands and face out of the direct area of the opening or you can get burned.
And here you have it! Take a look:
Serve and enjoy!
To serve, plate one piece of fish along with some mushrooms.
Drizzle with a little of the broth. Dust with blood orange zest and sprinkle with Nori and chili flakes.