Earlier this year, I made a decision that I was going to start eating more fish – partially because I’m trying to eat a healthier diet in general, and partially because I wanted to challenge myself by going outside of my culinary comfort zone.
It’s not that I don’t like fish. Quite the opposite, really – I’m pretty sure that being half-Portuguese means a deep and abiding love for salt cod is coded into my DNA, right next to the genes that resulted in my unmanageably thick curly hair and my tendency to use my outside voice even when indoors.
It’s just that fish is never at the top of my mental folder of potential meal ideas when I’m wandering around the grocery trying to come up with a reasonable weeknight dinner. (Then again, that might be more of a reflection on the quality of supermarket fish, rather than the limitations of my repertoire… but I digress.)
I’m getting better at it, though. There have been a few experiments – some good, some not so good, and even a few I’d consider an outright success.
One of my new favourites is these parchment packets. I suppose I could have made them sound fancier by saying they’re made “en papillote”, seeing as saying anything in French automatically makes it a million times fancier, but the fact is that this isn’t a particularly fancy dish as far as I’m concerned.
It’s actually downright simple. Like most meaty white fish, wild cod is really just a canvas for other flavours – in this case, a rather textbook Mediterranean-style topping of tomatoes and olives with garlic, olive oil, white wine and oregano. (The only thing missing is capers – I omitted them for The Boy’s sake, but if you’re a fan, a handful of capers would be a brilliant finishing touch.)
When you wrap it all up in a parchment pouch, though, something magical happens – the paper traps all the moisture, steaming the fish in its own juices, leaving it perfectly flaky and moist and deliciously flavourful.
And did I mention that the whole shebang is done in just about 30 minutes, including the time it takes to bake? Not too shabby.
Add a sprinkling of fresh parsley, a simple rice pilaf and a green salad, and you might just find yourself wondering why you don’t eat fish more often either.
- 1 lb wild cod fillets (or any other firm white fish)
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
- ½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp dry white wine
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Chopped parsley, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 425F.
- Sprinkle the cod fillets with salt on both sides. Lay an 18" long sheet of parchment paper on a large baking sheet, then arrange on the lower half of the parchment paper.
- Top the fish with tomatoes, olives, shallot and garlic. Sprinkle with pepper and oregano, then drizzle with wine and olive oil.
- Fold the upper half of the parchment over the fish, and crimp the sides tightly to create a rectangular pouch.
- Bake in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, or until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork. (Cooking time will vary quite a bit, depending on how thick your fish is... thin filets like sole would probably be done in 10 minutes or even less, while these cod filets took the full 15 minutes)
- To serve, carefully open the packet (remember... it's full of hot steam!). Transfer the cooked fish to individual plates, topping each filet with a generous amount of the tomato sauce and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.