I taught my mama how to cook fish in parchment a little while ago, and it blew her mind; this is her main way of cooking meaty fish now. Of course, for bangus she sticks to pan roasting.
Anyway, “fish in parchment” is not an appetizing name. In French, it’s en papillote, in Italian it’s in cartoccio; in Spanish I’d probably say en paquete; all of these languages refer to the pouch. In English we refer to the paper apparently. Also, in a pinch you can use aluminium foil; I did that once on the beach in Kauai with some tuna. I try to avoid aluminium just in case it causes some Alzheimer’s. Also, some people refer to cooking in aluminium pouches as “hobo packets,” which is demeaning.
So rip out a big piece of parchment. The fancy people fold it in half and cut it into a cartoid, but ain’t nobody got time for that.
Lay down a little olive oil, or not. Put down some solid vegetables, like thin sliced potatoes or onions or whatever. Put the fish on top of that, salt and pepper, olive oil if you want; do whatever, it’s your packet. Top with herbs, crushed garlic, and thin sliced chiles. If you have a green veg, put it beside the fish. Or whatever; it’s all going to work.
You can get a little technique-y if you want when you fold it all shut. I just start at one end and twist it up along the seam so that no steam will come out. As you can see, I didn’t leave a lot of space for air. Your French culinary teacher will probably say to leave more room for air to puff up. Do what makes you happy; just make sure it’s folded or twisted up hard, so that the steam won’t explode your seam.
At cooking school they will tell you to put it on a baking sheet and bake it off at 400º or 450º for 15 minutes. Of course I don’t do that, I just put it in a dry cast iron skillet and put the lid on, who cares; medium flame or whatever. Somewhere after between 12 to 15 min, you’ll smell cooked fish, and you know it’s probably done, so you can turn it off and let it rest for a bit. Then spatula it onto a plate and let your guests tear into the paper at the table. The point is to give yourself a facial in the steam that escapes when your rip it open, and if your guests don’t ooh and ahh when they tear the hot packet open, drop them from your lives. People that pray until the food is cold are themselves a curse. People that find other things to do once the hot food has hit the table are too stupid to eat this, send them to Burger King with a bus ticket. Idiots.
So I served mine with fried mushrooms and some jicama that I chopped up a week ago. This meal is ketogenic, even though I’m not.
If you’re grilling on the beach in Kauai, you can put these packets right on the grill, or on top of a sheet of foil. I think I got impatient and put the foil right on top of the cooling coals.
If your fish is undercooked, cook it longer the next time. If your veggies are undercooked, chop them smaller the next time. Make stuff small enough to steam in the same amount of time that it takes fish to smell cooked. As long as you got a hard seal, this technique is going to work.