Mediterranean Fish en Papillote

One of the best things about attending a lengthy culinary program is the plethora of cooking methods learned. If you want to become more of a stallion in the kitchen, you need to do this.

If you’re not sure what cooking methods are, I’m positive you already know some. Frying. Baking. Steaming. Poaching. Braising…. see! Those are just for starters.

Right up there as one of the most interesting, most rewarding and yet with little work involved, just has to be cooking en papillote. While this is an apt definition, it neglects to mention how steaming something in it’s own juices intensifies the flavours. This is why you serve the actual packet, to be cut open by the lucky diner – so they also get to enjoy the wafts of deliciousness as they are released.

We really must thank the French for getting some things right~

The one catch…? Knowing when what’s enclosed in the package is cooked. You could insert a probe thermometer, attached by wire to a timer that sits outside the oven. Or, you could open up a packet and see/test what’s inside. You’ll just lose the effect of the air balloon that’s formed. No biggie, if you want to be sure.

Offer a spoon when you serve these. Once the packets are opened and surprises of delight subside, instruct your guests to baste with the lovely juices that have accumulated into the most miraculous, light sauce. You’re not going to believe how tender and absolutely delicious this is~

Oh… and summer bonus… you could easily do this on your outdoor grill. Just mind your heat setting is not set on raging inferno!

Mediterranean Fish en

This cooking method is so remarkable, you can use something as ordinary as tilapia, and turn it into extraordinary! Be sure to add a bit of cooking time to the rule of 10 minutes per inch for the fish – it takes a bit longer as it’s not directly subjected to heat. Serves 2. Very easily multiplied.
2 portions firm white fish
Salt & freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Cherry/grape tomatoes, 4 or 5 per packet (cut some, leave some whole for interest)
Kalamata olives, pitted and torn into pieces, 2 or maybe 3 per (mind how salty they are)
Capers, a few sprinkled on top
Lemon wedge, a squirt for each packet
A sprinkle, really, of fresh basil or Italian parsley
Preheat your oven to 350º
Make the parchment hearts/packets. (Lots of pics below!)
Cut pieces of parchment 18″ wide and fold them in half. With a pencil, lightly trace out what half a heart would look like, using as much of the parchment as possible. With the paper still folded, cut out the half heart keeping in mind these do not have to be precise – they simply will be easier to close in this shape.
Open up the parchment hearts and just to the right of the fold, drizzle with a little oil.
Add the fish, seasoning both sides with salt & pepper. Add tomatoes, olives, capers and squirt of lemon juice. Sprinkle with herbs and drizzle with a bit more oil; don’t worry if all the goods won’t stay on top of the fish. 
To close the parchment packets: starting from the top of the heart, take about a 1 inch piece of the parchment folding it towards you approx. 1/2 inch, giving it a good crease. Follow all around the half heart in this method, being sure the folds are pressed down tightly. These do not have to be precise, but what you do have to do is make a good seal. You’ll know it worked when they balloon up in the oven.
When you get to the end, you’ll have a little tail. Simply fold it under and away from you, tucking it underneath – again pressing firmly. You’ll see in the how to pics with the (test) packet using lemon slices & mushroom. It was good… but the tomato, caper, etc version soooo much better!
Place on baking tray and bake for approx 12 minutes, depending on how thick the fish is.
Serve immediately, on a large plate. Much like a souffle, they will start to collapse when they leave the heat of the oven. Buon appetito~