Fish has such delicate flesh that it’s often wrapped in baking paper, foil, leaves or even bark, to help protect it and keep it moist while it’s cooking; the fish steams in its own juices within the parcels giving a lovely moist result.
Parcels can be prepared several hours ahead of time, or even the day before, and removed from the fridge 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook them, this is particularly important if the fish is being served rare. If cooking more than one parcel, ensure the pieces of fish are a uniform size and thickness so they’ll form neat parcels and cook evenly. Serve the parcels for diners to open at the table, releasing all the delicious aromas; add a green salad, buttered potatoes or steamed vegies to complete the meal.
Get wrapping with some of these delicious parcel ideas:
- Seafood cooked in paper parcels is popular in the Mediterranean (French ‘en Papillote’ and Italian ‘in Cartoccio’). Fish is normally cooked this way, though the Italians also prepare spaghetti with clams then wrap it in a paper parcel to finish it in the oven. Such parcels are a great way to bake or steam fish with fresh herbs and a drizzle of wine, oil or lemon juice.
- Rolls of paper bark and strips of thin cedar wood from barbecue stores can be used to protect and add flavour to any fish that’s being barbecued or baked.
- A salt dough crust is the perfect way to cook a whole large fish. It can even be cooked covered in the coals of a campfire and kept warm inside the dough for quite a while before it’s opened. The dough seasons the fish, giving it a delicious salty flavour.
- Thick, inedible leaves, like banana leaves, are perfect for protecting delicate fish from the heat of a barbecue, use toothpicks or kitchen string to hold the parcels together. Classic Asian dishes like grilled Malaysian otak otak or Thai hor mok pla (spicy fish mouse wrapped in banana leaves) employ banana leaf wrappings.
- Edible wrappings, like vine leaves or sheets of dried nori, are great for tasty fish that don’t look particularly appealing, as they provide an attractive exterior. Vine leaves work well on the barbecue, while nori is best steamed so the moisture softens it to a lovely, slightly chewy, texture.
- Crêpes or sheets of thin pastry (such as Greek phyllo or Tunisian brik pastry) are handy for wrapping cooked seafood, as they need very little time in the oven so the seafood won’t overcook. Perfect for using up leftover seafood in a sauce, just don’t use too much sauce or it will make the wrapping soggy.
- Dumplings and filled pasta are another variation, usually with the filling minced into a paste, wrapped then boiled, poached or steamed. They can be served in a soup, coated in sauce, or with a dipping sauce on the side.