The Zippy French Method for Cooking Flaky, Tender Fish

November  1, 2016

Cooking en papillote works wonders on dinner. That's why we partnered with Bosch Home Appliances and their brand ambassador Danny Seo to share a guide on the technique, inspired by their modern approach to cooking and appliances (like their steam convection ovens and induction cooktops).

En papillote may sound fancy and French, but it's as easy as roasting vegetables—and nearly foolproof. Essentially, food is gently steamed and served hot in a hand-folded parchment packet. It's used typically to cook fish or shellfish and vegetables, but in some instances en papillote can be used for meat and even fruit. (The term papillote is awfully close to papillon, which translates to butterfly in English, and, to me, recalls the wing-shaped packets often cut for this style of cooking.)

Danny Seo, a cookbook author and magazine editor who's writing focuses on simplified, healthful cooking, loves this way of making fish, not only because it's simple and flavorful, but because it serves a crowd bust-a-move style—making impressive look simple. (There's no overcooked fish, and no undercooked vegetables.)

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Says Danny of his version:

It’s like saying Le Pain Quotidien when you basically mean Panera. Here’s a very fancy French way of saying this dinner is all cooked in paper. Parchment paper to be more exact. I like making this dish at home when I’m cooking for a crowd. The portions of protein and vegetables are self-contained in their own pouch and steaming helps keep the flesh moist and tender. Just remember: Use unbleached parchment paper, which is chlorine-free.

Have a heart (full of fish)! Photo by James Ransom

The technique is all in the en papillote packet. To shape yours for success, here's the deal:

1. Snip a piece of parchment paper large enough to cradle and cover the food entirely. (Make sure there's plenty around the edges, too.) You could cut it into a very large circle or heart shape.

2. If you'd like, this is the point to brush the paper with a little olive oil or melted butter.

3. Fill one side of the parchment to your heart's desire! (Danny suggests single servings for easy plating later.) Many types of fish work, and virtually any vegetable you'd steam in another style will take to it. In the summer, Danny uses tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini. As things turn cold in these parts and brassica season comes to comfort us, stuff it with broccoli, edamame, and mushrooms accordingly. It'd work just as well with cauliflower, potatoes, carrots—the list goes on. (You might have to adjust the time depending on what's cooking.)

4. Fold over the other side of parchment to completely cover the food. And then, working around the edges, roll or fold them sharply together and back toward the food, tightly, to create a seal. Do this for as many people as your feeding, and pop onto a baking sheet to steam in the oven.

Danny used mullet fillets in his original recipe. We sprung for sea bass to sit pretty with some broccoli, but you can also sub in arctic char. Ginger stays front and center, and the soy sauce marinade rounds everything out.

The clean, modern design of Bosch Home Appliances inspired us to clear the clutter in our kitchens, so we're sharing techniques, recipes, and tips to simplify your cooking and streamline your decor.

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