Friday, January 30, 2015

Sea Bass in Papillote

Last Year's Post: Coq Au Vin
Two Years Ago:  Lobster with Pasta and White Wine-Butter Sauce

Don't let the term "in papillote" (pa-pee-yoh) scare you - it just refers to something baked in a paper or foil pouch to seal in moisture.  Fish is often prepared this way because it cooks perfectly and the accompanying flavors in the pouch infuse the fish while it cooks.  It's really easy, delicious, and kind of spectacular if you serve individual pouches that the diners can open themselves.

This particular recipe for sea bass simplifies the process by cooking all the fish together in one big foil packet, but you can also make individual pouches.  I was cooking for two people, so I put the two pieces of fish in one packet for simplicity.

Sea bass is a wonderful mild white fish that pairs well with the other Mediterranean flavors in the dish, but if you don't care for or can't find sea bass you could substitute halibut, cod, salmon, swordfish, snapper, or any other fish that you like.  This dish follows the principles of a Mediterranean diet so it's not only delicious, it's healthy as well.  Pair with a green vegetable and some brown rice or other whole grain for a complete dinner.

The process is very simple - just assemble the fish with the other ingredients, seal up the foil around it, and bake.  The foil packet may be assembled in advance and refrigerated which makes it a great make-ahead option for entertaining.

printable recipe
Sea Bass in Papillote
Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 (6-oz) fillets black sea bass or striped bass (1/2 to 1 ¼ inches thick)
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
8 thin lemon slices (from 1 large lemon)
8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
12 cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, halved
1 ½ tablespoons drained bottled capers

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400d.  Line a large baking sheet with foil, then drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil.

Pat fish dry and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.  Arrange fillets in 1 layer in the center of foil on baking sheet and slide 2 lemon slices under each fillet.  Arrange 2 thyme sprigs on top of each fillet.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté garlic, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes and a pinch of salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have softened, about 1 minute.  Stir in capers.

Spoon hot tomato mixture over fish, then cover with another sheet of foil, tenting it slightly over fish, and crimp edges together tightly to seal.

Bake until fish is just cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes (depending on thickness of fish); check by removing from the oven and carefully lifting up a corner of the top sheet of foil.  If fish is not cooked through, reseal foil and continue to bake, checking every 3 minutes.

Transfer fillets with lemon slices to plates using a spatula (being careful not to tear the foil underneath) and spoon tomatoes and juices over top.  Discard thyme and serve immediately.

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