White Fish en Papillote with Lemon & Capers

White Fish en Papillote

This recipe is one of those that has as much enjoyment in the making as it does in the eating. Cooking ‘en papillote’ is a French term, and means literally ‘cooking in parchment’. The paper is craftily folded into an air-tight packet allowing the ingredients cook together, while retaining the juices which combine into a flavourful, light sauce.

You can use any thin fillets of white fish that you like. On the day I made this I used wild cod, which at the time was the best selection I could find. Using lots of lemon & capers was a perfect counterpart to match the strong taste of the fish. Start with the fish placed just to the side of the middle fold, leaving equal space around. This will give you lots of room to make the pleats/folds, leaving enough room for the package to expand and rise.

You can include any quick cooking (or par-cooked) vegetables that you enjoy with fish, just be sure to slice them thinly so they will cook in the short time the fish is in the oven. In addition to traditional fish accompaniments like lemons and capers, the thinly sliced tomatoes I used added flavour to both the fish and the sauce. Olives are also exceptional – just don’t go crazy with them as they’ll quickly overpower!

The most important thing to remember is to create an airtight seal for the package. It will puff up majestically in the oven, while containing all the ingredients inside. Starting with a heart shape is essential, as is making the first pleat – as shown in the photos above; making sure the successive pleats overlap, and pressing them down firmly are key to creating a good seal.

En papillote finished package

The finished package ready for the oven; turning the last bit of pleat/tail underneath will help keep things intact!

En papillote ready for the oven

Use one baking tray per package so there’ll be enough room to expand, and have your serving plates ready, as the packages will deflate quickly once out of the oven. Use a large spatula to transfer the packages to serving plates, and go directly to the table. Using scissors is a great (and safe!) way to cut them open, and everyone will get to experience the moment when the steam and lovely aromas are released – right in front of them!

White Fish en Papillote with Lemon & Capers
Serves 2
Fish, vegetables & flavourings cook quickly in the oven, with everything steaming and getting happy together. Serve the package on a plate - opening releases all the wonderful aromas - right in front of you. These cook fast, so have your diners close by!
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Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
  1. 2 fillets of white fish, approx. 3 - 4 ounces each
  2. Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
  3. Pinch freshly ground black pepper
  4. Pinch salt (go easy with it, especially if use capers)
1) vegetable ideas
  1. few slices thinly sliced tomatoes, or a few cherry tomatoes, halved
  2. *other quick cooking or par-cooked veg: zucchini, cucumber, asparagus, etc
2) flavourings
  1. very thin slices lemon, 2 - 3 per package
  2. Sprinkle of capers
  3. 2 - 3 olives, torn/cut into pieces
3) fresh herbs
  1. 1 teaspoon approximate chopped: dill, basil, chives or Italian parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
To make the paper hearts
  1. Using one 14x12” piece of parchment for each serving, fold each in half the long way, then cut into a heart shape.
  2. To the side of one of the folds, drizzle parchment with a bit of olive oil, add fish, then whatever vegetables, flavourings and herbs you like. (Don’t go crazy - a little will go a long way here!)
  3. Enclose fully, firmly folding and pleating, tucking the last part/tail underneath.
  4. Place each package on its own baking sheet and place in oven.
  5. Cook for 5 - 7 minutes; when the packages have ballooned up, they’ll be ready. Serve at once, placing the package on serving plates and have scissors on the table, allowing everyone to cut open their own package for the full effect!
  1. *Tip: you could also use foil in place of the parchment, just be careful that it doesn't rip!
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