Thursday, July 19, 2012

Daring Cooks Challenge, July 2012, En Papillote

Our July 2012 Daring Cooks’ host was Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie! Sarah challenges us to learn a new cooking technique called “Cooking En Papillote” which is French and translates to "cooking in parchment".
En papillote ensures that all components of a meal are wrapped in an oven safe packet, in most cases parchment, bringing about a moist, flavorful outcome. It's a delightfully healthful way to cook.
Sarah gave us much latitude in terms of ingredients, so I decided on a fish bake, made a number of times, but with not the parchment.

The packet brought back memories of a traditional Kerala cooking technique in which fish is teamed in  a host of zesty ingredients, ultimately to be wrapped and roasted/broiled with fragrant banana leaves. I wanted a similar flavor profile, not quite as spicy, with of course, the covering of parchment, in lieu of the large, leaf envelope.

I admit I am notorious for the onion/garlic/ ginger saute, but it works so well with this fish, I could not keep away from the familiar masala trio. Along with ground serranos and a splash of curry leaves, the  heat/awesome factor would be in perfect balance. Juice from a freshly squeezed lemon provided moisture and complementing tartness. Fragrant coconut oil was further added, suitably fusing this French preparation with a distinct Kerala stamp. 

Fish in Masala~
  •  2 tbsp roughly chopped ginger
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 4 serranos, deseed if needed
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced thin
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • 4 cod fillets or any white flesh fish, cut into two halves 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • Preheat oven to 400° F.
  • In a mini chopper, grind ginger, garlic, and serranos to a chunky paste.
  • In a saute pan, heat oil over medium heat, saute onions and your ground ingredients. Stir and cook till fragrant and all ingredients are slightly soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in curry leaves.
  • Add salt and pepper.
  • Mix in coconut oil and lemon juice and take off heat. Leave to cool and prepare parchment packet.
  • Cut out heart shape or rectangular shapes from parchment enough to cover fish, either two very large shapes or smaller ones for individual fish packets. Season the fish with salt and pepper. 
  • Put fish in packets, 4 pieces per packet and divide and spread onion mixture evenly over fish. Alternatively, for individual packs, one fish piece plus one tablespoon of onion mixture spread over it. 
Oversized freeform hearts were advised, but parchment rectangles are what mine turned out to be.
  •  Tightly pinch and seal edges.

  •  Place packets on baking tray for 20-25 minutes.
  • Take out of oven and wait  a couple of minutes before breaking open packet to serve.
The flavors of all the ingredients melded so well that when our envelopes were opened, we were hit in the face with intense bursts of aroma. The fish, ultimately buried in caramelized masala was moist, and thoroughly engulfed in mouth watering seasonings. A must mention- the good amount of dinnertime fun had by my kids, who were super delighted on breaking apart their surprise food pockets.

This cooking in a packet technique though impressive enough to be forked up at fancy restaurants  works incredibly well in the kitchen of your home. And since tonight was the night I cooked and ate food en papillote for the very first time, I know now that with some ideal main ingredients and a good reserve of flavorful pantry stock I can papillote up an exceptional spread anytime, any day.

Behold, take heed; a full cooked meal made with a sheet of parchment and a baking sheet. You tell me, could it get any easier than this?

Thanks so much Sarah, this will probably be the most truant entry for the July challenge, but it was too good to pass.
Know that you are always safe and secure in His presence and under His faithful, ever watchful guard~

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." Psalm 91, 1-4 (NIV)


  1. wow..looks delicious,yummy yummy..never tried using parchment paper,though I used aluminium foil & banan leaves for bake,will give this a try next tym:-)

    1. Thank you, it is so good Julie, I love the vazha ela wrap too, adds so much flavor.

  2. I certainly do like this method. I think it's way better than foil. After all it's aluminum foil and aren't we advised not to cook in aluminum pots.

    1. Yes, Ellen, it does seem better than foil, especially when you have acid in the ingredient base that might react with the aluminium.

  3. I love the Kerala Stamp bit :) Nothing can beat our Indian flavours - ofcourse for those who love all the spices :)

    1. So true Leena, nothing can! If I could, I'd have put a few red chillies into the mix. But since it was a healthful theme, a dish that burns a hole in your tummy didnt seem right;-))

  4. I've never tried fish with masala before! I love seafood and your preparation looks terriffic - can't wait to try it! Beautiful dish!

    1. Thanks Julia, it's good this way..low in fat and super moist.

  5. bookmarking this tisa.. we're big fish fans... snaps are very tempting :)

    Noel collections

    1. Thank you Reshmi, we're love fish- have it almost everyday- just something different to shake up the everyday meen curry, don't you think?

  6. What a delicious and perfectly executed challenge :D

    Choc Chip Uru

    1. Thank you Ms. Uru, this was probably one of the easier challenges, I'm glad you liked it!

  7. I love that top picture Tisa, it is so appetizing and I wish I could reach out and have a bite
    I am bookmarking your recipe as I plan to try and cook fish next using this technique and I just know I will love your recipe

    1. Thanks so much Sawsan. I was so late in putting this out, I just used a recipe I had on hand. I hope you try and do enjoy it. Really appreciate the encouragement on my pics, especially when I'm such a fan of all your drool worthy photos :))


Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me!