Basicwomen's Blog

{November 4, 2010}   Cod en Papillote

by – Jessica VerderameCod en Papillote

It sounds fancy, but all “en papillote” really means is “in parchment.” It takes almost no work, and even less cleanup, but makes for an interesting presentation and flavorful dish. It’s fish, layered with thinly sliced vegetables and flavorings, wrapped up in parchment and put in the oven so it can steam in its own juices. Here, I used Napa cabbage, fennel, and shredded carrots with fresh cod, but there are so many options for these; however, some vegetables and fish work better than others. Whatever you use should be sliced thinly enough so that it takes as much time to cook as the fish, which in this case was 15 minutes. According to Cooks Illustrated, “Dense [vegetables] like potatoes failed to cook evenly in the foil packets, even when par cooked. Absorbent eggplant cooked into mush in all the moisture. Others, such as broccoli, overpowered the delicate fish flavor.”

Leeks, carrots, fennel, zucchini, and tomatoes all work well. As far as fish goes, I like cod because of its mild flavor and flakey texture. Any fish with a mild flavor and flakey texture works best.

In order to steer clear from the problem of the fish being bland, I found that using a pat of an herbed butter to the fish before cooking to add enough flavor. Also, adding a touch of liquid, like wine or broth, not only adds flavor but also helps to steam the fish and keep it moist. I used broth because I didn’t want to buy a bottle of wine just for 2 tablespoons, but if you have it on hand I would definitely suggest using it.

Cod en Papillote – Ingredients:

Serves 2

2 6-oz cod fillets

½ head Napa cabbage, thinly sliced

½ large fennel bulb, thinly sliced

1 carrot, shredded

2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus lemon slices

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon basil, chopped

2 tablespoons broth or white wine

1 tablespoon herbed compound butter (see below)

Salt & pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Season fish with salt and pepper. On a piece of parchment paper, layer Napa cabbage, shredded carrots, and fennel. Top with fish, then 1 tablespoon of parsley each, and ½ tablespoon of basil each, 1/2 tablespoon of herbed butter, and lemon slices. Squeeze about 1 tablespoon of lemon on each, then add 1 tablespoon of broth or wine to each.

3. Top with a second piece of parchment paper, and tightly wrap together.

4. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes.

5. To serve, place packages on a plate and cut open.

Herbed Compound Butter – Ingredients & Directions:

Though I only use one tablespoon for this recipe, you can make a batch of this using a whole stick of butter and use it on anything, such as fish, chicken, steak, veggies, or pasta. All you do is take room temperature butter and mix it with herbs of your choice. I made half a stick’s worth, and added about 2 tablespoons of parsley and 1 of basil, but you can use any amount of any herbs you like. When it’s all incorporated, roll the butter into a log in some plastic wrap and freeze until hardened.

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