Cooking in a paper bag, or really, a parchment packet (using that new paper-lined foil makes it even easier) is the most foolproof way to cook. The side dish veggies, the fish, and the ingredients for the sauce all get thrown into the packet, sealed up, and stuck in the oven. The packet comes out puffed up and burnished, and you just dive in. The veggies are tender. The fish is flaky. The sauce is delicious. And you don't have to clean up. It's perfect for a dinner for two.
This version uses a bed of zucchinis crowed with a thick piece of fresh cod. The flavoring comes from sliced chilies, mint, basil, garlic, cherry tomatoes, white wine, olive oil, and butter. But you can swap or omit these as you see fit. If you don't like chilies, or don't have mint and basil and don't feel like buying them, you can omit them. If you don't like zucchini, use asparagus or sugar snaps. Feel free to mix and match. Just make sure you have a bed of thinly sliced veggies, a piece of boneless, skinless fish, and some liquid. It will come out perfectly every time.
- 2 small to medium zucchini, thinly sliced
- 2 boneless, skinless cod fillets, about 6 ounces each
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 small red chili, thinly sliced, or a pinch of dried chili flakes
- 1 medium clove garlic, chopped (about 1 teaspoon)
- 8 leaves fresh basil
- 12 leaves fresh mint
- 16 cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons dry white wine
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Assemble the packets: Tear off two large recangles of parchment or foil, about 12- by 24-inches. Fold each over crosswise to crease, then open again. Divide the zucchini between the two and spread them out in a small pile one half of the parchment, leaving a one-inch border. On top of each bed of zucchini, place the cod, and season everything with salt and pepper. Then top with half the chili, garlic, basil, mint, and tomatoes. Over each packet, spoon 1 tablespoon each of olive oil, butter, and wine.
For the packets in half, then seal the edges by crimping, starting at one corner and slowly working your way around. (I find a strategically placed staple really helps the parchment packets stay sealed. For traditional papillote folding technique, see here). Place the sealed packets on a baking sheet, and bake until fish is cooked, about 12 minutes. Serve packets directly on dinner plates and open at the table.
parchment or parchment-foil