“En papillote” is easiest and fastest method to cook fish: moreover its natural taste is enriched by aromatics herbs and spices.
I used to like every kind of fish because it has got its own peculiar taste, and Italy is worldwide famous for it, but unfortunately I can’t enjoy it any more. I have always been allergic to some types of fish such as sardines, anchovies, mackerels, but recently I have got allergic to all fish. So, my recipes are tested by my husband with his infallible palate and taste; to tell you the truth, he is always quite severe, but his constructive criticism makes my fish recipes better and better.
Why should you eat fish? 6 healthy reasons to have it at least 3 times a week.
It is good for you (of course, if you are not allergic) because:
- It is fast to cook. The proportion of muscles is higher as and connective tissues amounts to the 3% of the total weight. That’s the reason why fish, differently from meat, does not take long to get tender.
- Fish flesh is naturally more tender because its muscle fibers are shorter;
- On average, it contains less fat;
- It is easier to digest and lean, but sometimes it is less satiating, so you may feel still hungry, that’s why it must be paired with a very generous serving of vegetables;
- The flesh is white and lean because it contains less blood vessels which bleed so there are no pigments;
- Its fat mainly consists of polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, which slow down the blood clotting process, reduce the blood pressure, and the hematic rate of triglycerides and lipoproteins.
How to buy fresh fish
The rules to choose good fish slightly vary according to the kind of fish you want to buy: a fresh whole fish, fillets, frozen, smoked, or salted.
- Fresh whole fish:
- The body must be firm, shine, smooth and tight; do not buy soft, inelastic, lumps fish;
- Moist red gills, milky liquid or slime around them means the fish is old, do not buy it;
- Bright bulging eyes, the cornea is clear (do not buy fish with whitish dull eyes);
- The skin is intact, moist; it has a metallic glow, and the scales must be tightly attached to the body (discolored or dull spots means it is old);
- The flesh is firm, tight and elastic, without any spots. If you lightly press the fish, the skin should spring back quickly; it must be tightly attached to the fishbone;
- The scales must be tight, firmly connected and intact;
- The belly is not puffed up, or dull; it should smell delicate and pleasant; do not buy fish which smells pungent or sharp, it is not fresh.
- Fish fillets
- Fresh steaks, fillets, or pieces show firm, bright elastic flesh and it must be tightly attached to the fishbone; they must smell pleasant and delicate. Any discolored, dark, or dry spots indicate fish is not fresh.
- Frozen food
The flesh is tight, firm, and bright without any dry spots, or freezer burns. Look out for frost or ice crystals inside the package: you don’t want that.
- Salted fish
The flesh must be bright, and smell good. Dry flesh means it has gone bad.
- Smokes fish
The flesh must smell good; any liquid indicates it is not fresh.
How can you store fish?
Once you have chosen your fresh fish, notably the brass for our recipe, how can you store it properly? Fish degrades faster than meat, so you have to cook it the same day you have bought it, or as soon as possible. If you can’t, wrap your brass into a wet tea-towel and store it into the coldest part of the fridge. Cleaned fish degrades more slowly, clean it and place it onto a plate, so the liquid won’t run all over your fridge.
Why have I opted for the sea bass?
I have chosen the sea bass because it is a sea, fish it is available almost everywhere in the world. Its delicate taste, which everyone may enjoy, gets even more flavorful when cooked.
How to prepare sea bass before cooking it
It doesn’t need much preparation but just a few operations must be carried out. Ask your fishmonger for advice: he may scale, eviscerate, and remove the fins, and cut it into fillets. If you buy it at the supermarket, that’s what you have to do:
- First of all, you have to scale it; this operation is easier when the fish has not been eviscerated yet, because the belly is still convex. As it is naturally slippery it will tent to slip away (this doesn’t mean it’s low quality at all), so rinse it under running water, or in a mix of vinegar and water: it will get less slippery and easier to handle. Work in the sink, so you will not dirty all the kitchen. Use the back of knife (not to hurt yourself), hold the fish firmly by the tail, and and scrape the fish from the tail to the head with the knife place at 45° in stroking motions. Repeat the operation a few times on both sides. Do this under little running water, so the scale won’t slip everywhere. Try not to damage the skin which favor the cooking process.
- Remove the fins: first cut the three fins along the stomach with a pair of kitchen scissors. Remove the dorsal fins too, because they may house some dangerous bacteria.
- Gut the fish: slice along the belly of the fish from the tail to the end. Pierce the belly of the fish and run the knife or a pair of scissors from the tail to the head. Open the stomach and remove and dispose the innards; insert the fingers into the gill and pull strongly to remove it. Rinse the cavity under running water to clean both inside and outside the fish thoroughly. Rinse until water runs out clean. Pat dry with clotting paper. Your fish will be perfectly clean inside and ready to be stuffed.
Why should I cook the sea bass en papillote?
Because it is an easy way to cook fish, and it is also the most “odorless”.
According to this method, fish is tightly wrapped into tin foil and naturally steamed. The fish and the vegetables which go with it remain soft and juicy.
This is the method:
- Lay the fish on a tinfoil, stuff it with vegetables and seasonings;
- Add some liquid, a little white wine for instance, or very little soy sauce, or just water,
- Top with a few slices of lemon, and add little butter to make it more toothsome;
- Close it tightly and place it onto a baking pan;
- Roast in the oven at 200°C (392°F); the cooking time depends on the size of the fish;
- Bring the papillote directly to the table, open it and serve to your table-mates.
How long do you have to cook fish?
A short time, otherwise fish gets dry and tasteless. The exact cooking time depends on a few variables of the fish: shape, size, fat contents. An average sized sea bass, about 400gr, takes 15-20 minutes at 200°C (392°F) in a preheated oven.
Mediterranean whole sea bass en papillote
- 500 gr sea-brass medium size
small bunch of aromatics: rosemary, sage, parsley, thyme
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 small clove garlic
- 1/2 glass white dry wine
Fresh lemon juice
- Clean a medium size bass, or have it cleaned by your fishmonger and wash it carefully.
- Dry it with clotting paper and season with unrefined salt and pepper.
- Pick up some aromatics from your garden: chop rosemary, sage, parsley, and thyme finely.
- Place the brass on a tinfoil and put it onto a baking pan;
- Season with the chopped aromatics and a small clove of garlic, and partially close the tinfoil.
- Preheat the oven at 200°C (392°F) and bake for 15-20 minutes, or more if the fish is bigger.
- After about 10 minutes, sprinkle with half a glass of white wine.
- When cooked, take the papillote to the table, season with a teaspoon of organic extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a little lemon juice
- Serve very hot.
The right serving and the right matchings
The right serving for a woman is about 150-200 g edible raw fish, for a man 200-250 g. It is usually paired with some lightly cooked vegetables, or at least 80-100 gr of lettuce. 60-100 gr of bread provides the carb servings: you may toast it for a crunchier taste. Some boiled rice, or 2-3 boiled potatoes with little oil and salt may well replace bread.
Your meal will be light, easy to digest and balanced.