I came across some beautiful walleye a week or so ago, and was feeling lazy, so I made fish in paper. Truly, considered a very elegant and refined dish, it is an occasional treat for me, when I am not feeling like doing much prep or clean up. Like many of the dishes I have shared, I will give you the basics, and you can take it from there.
- 1 Medium Sweet Potato (I happened to use a solid purple one)
- 1 Small Onion (I prefer white, but your preference will be fine)
- 1 Stalk Green Garlic, or Cloves of Mature Garlic
- 2 or 3 Shitake Mushrooms
- Sprinkling of available herbs (I used Cherokee Sweet Mint, Sorrel, Chives and Thyme)
- One Small Hot (or not) Pepper
- 1 Lemon
- Sesame Oil
- Broth of your choice (I typically keep a batch of pork stock around, and dilute that, but we are talking about a tablespoon or two, so don’t stress it.)
- white potato in lieu of sweet potato
- sliced kohlrabi
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Using your fish as a rough measure, tear off a piece of parchment paper about 2 and a half times the length of the fish. Fold it in half along the short side, to make a square, more or less. Open up the fold, and working on one interior half, assemble your dish. This is what I used, and I will make some suggestions for variation, along the way.
Thinly slice the sweet potato, I don’t bother to peel, and shingle onto the paper, centered on the bottom side of the fold. Sprinkle with salt. Consider adding a sprinkling of herbs, a bit of sliced onion, garlic. The thing here is to remember to keep everything fairly thin.
Place the fish over the sweet potato, and your flavorings.
Cut a couple of nice slices right out of the middle of the lemon and remove any seeds. Lay the slices directly onto the fish, sprinkle on Shitake, and carry on with herbs, peppers, maybe a cherry tomato, or single slice of a large tomato.
Mix the sesame oil, in equal amounts to the lemon juice, season with salt, black pepper, if you must, and spoon about half of the mixture over your fish and vegetables.
Add a tablespoon or so of your broth, could just as easily be a bit of water, begin folding your paper.
Go to the fold, right at the end of the fish, and fold over at an angle, towards the fish. Kind of like the turned edge of a hand pie, or empanada.
Keep moving along, making the pointed fold every inch or so, until you have sealed in the fish and vegetables. Twist the little tail a bit to make sure it remains closed, and your steaming package is ready for the oven.
Slide the whole package onto a sheet pan, tuck the little tail underneath to keep it from unwinding, set the package in the center of the oven, and cook, usually 12-14 minutes, for an average flaky fish, not more than an inch thick. If you have sealed the package well, it will puff in the oven, as the liquid heats, and all the ingredients steam. Always go with a flaky fish like the walleye, halibut, salmon, etc, not more than an inch thick, and not less than a half inch.
Remove the package from the oven and give it just a minute or two to calm down before inserting a knife into one end, and cutting it open, in a big X.
I like to make a little fresh salad, or salsa to go with it, using any lemon/sesame mixture that might be left over, and that is about all. Roll the paper back, spoon on your lemon dressing, or salsa, and get a fork. You can be as brave as you like with this, so long as you keep your ingredients thinner, and you really fold that paper in towards the fish, overlapping each long angular fold so that it seals fairly tightly. Especially with the flavorings, and small vegetable bits, add what moves you, just remember to keep pieces thin.
This can be a remarkable dish, that presents beautifully, and is fairly simple. Packages can be made and carefully refrigerated, for a few hours, on the sheet pan.