Fish dries out easily, so it is often cooked in a protective case. The simplest is a case made from parchment paper; the fish is enclosed with flavorings like herbs, chopped garlic, shallot, ginger, sliced mushrooms, a julienne of mixed vegetables, or a sprinkling of breadcrumbs. Shrimp and other shellfish can be cooked in this manner as well.
Traditionally, the paper is cut into a heart shape and folded to form a package (the French say papillote) around the fish. In the oven's heat, the ingredients steam and the flavors mingle. When the fish is cooked, the package browns and puffs to a balloon, which releases a rich aroma when opened. Rice pilaf or small, precooked vegetables can be added to the package, making it the ultimate one-dish individual serving.
Most fish (other than the oily ones) can be cooked in paper; usually fish fillets or steaks are used, but small whole fish can also be baked this way as well. Anne Willan’s LaVarenne Pratique, an essential culinary reference book for both novice and expert cooks, shares these tips for peeling boiled eggs.
Fold a large sheet of parchment paper in half and cut round it to make a heart shape when unfolded. It should be at least two inches larger than the fish. Brush the paper with butter. Set the fish on one half of the paper with salt, pepper, and flavorings.
(Credit: Flickr/Mallory Dash/total noms)
Fold the other side over it and make small pleats to seal the two edges, starting at the curve of the heart. Brush the outside of the package with butter so that it browns well.
Transfer the package to a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until puffed and brown, 15 to 25 minutes depending on the size of the fish. Break or cut open the package at the table.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal's Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.