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This recipe delivers intense flavor and elegant results. This is a fun and interesting entrée to serve for dinner guests or a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner. And, it requires almost no effort; everything is cooked together in one packet called a papillote. And if you do not want to do packets, a glass baking pan will work too.
En Papillote is a French cooking method that means to cook “in paper.” The food is baked in a folded parchment paper packet, which seals in the moisture and allows the flavors to blend while the ingredients steam and cook.
And if you don’t want to do the fish in packets, you can follow the prep instructions but put the fish in a glass baking dish and cover tightly with foil.
Alternate Glass Baking Dish Instructions
Make Ahead Tip: If using a glass baking dish, this can be made ahead, covered tightly and placed in the refrigerator until ready to put in the oven. The cooking time will be a minute or two longer because the dish and ingredients will start out chilled. Prep the vegetables in step 2. Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake. Bake at 400 degrees like in step 7. This takes 12-20 minutes depending on the amount and thickness of your fish.
If making papillote, you can make the vegetable topping ahead of time but don’t assemble yet.
Parchment paper, aluminum foil, or a 13 x 9 glass baking dish
4 sole, cod, halibut or tilapia fillets, 6-8 ounces each (I use Trader Joe’s frozen fillets that are 1-2 inches thick. Thin fillets will not work) See photos below.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced finely
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
4 tbsp capers, drained
16 large pitted Kalamata olives halved
3/4 tsp. Herbes de Provence seasoning
½ tsp kosher salt
Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp dry white wine (I like to use an inexpensive sauvignon blanc)
8 fresh thyme sprigs, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. In a skillet or pan, add olive oil, garlic and pepper flakes. Warm gently over medium heat for a minute or two until the garlic just starts to get slightly golden brown. Turn off the heat and let it sit. Watch carefully, do not let it burn or cook too much. Stir in tomatoes, capers, olives and wine.
3. Cut four 15 inch square pieces of parchment paper. Fold the square in half, draw half a large half heart shape, cut along the lines and open. As you see here, I used a pan lid to trace around and then used a straight edge.
4. Spray the parchment rounds with non-stick cooking spray.
5. Place a fish fillet in the crease of each piece of parchment and season with salt and pepper. Place 1/4 of the tomato mixture on top of each fillet. Place 2 thyme sprigs on top of the vegetables, if using.
6. Fold the other half of parchment over fish. Starting at the top of each paper half heart, make small, very tight overlapping folds along the outside edge to seal the packet. Twist tail ends tightly to seal. You really want to force these creases to be hard folds, applied with pressure. You don’t want these top open up and leak all over the place, while they bake.
7. Carefully place the papillotes on a baking sheet with edges (just in case one does break or leak) and bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 12 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Check doneness by inserting a thermometer into the papillotes and checking the temperature with a digital meat thermometer. The USDA says the safe temperature 145, although some people prefer the taste and texture of fish cooked to 130-135. Or if you do not have a meat thermometer, cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.
8. To serve, place a parchment pouch on each plate and slice open the top with a sharp knife or scissors, fold back the paper
NOTE: If you can’t find parchment paper, you can substitute aluminum foil bags.