In the old days, some civilizations used to seal a pot with dead dough (bread dough without yeast or a mix of water and flour). The food will cook over low heat in its own juice.
Cooking en “papillote” is not far from this, we just use newly invented cling film, foil, baking paper or special plastic bags.
When I was about 16, my father had discovered his diabetis and cholestrol problems and was requested to go on diet (which he never followed). He used to cook for pleasure and his food was so tasty. He was the reason why I got into cooking and loving fresh food markets.
While he discarded the bland diet dishes my mother cooked for him without blinking (for my mother, a diet meant steam food and serve with no salt, no sugar, no oil/butter no nothing), he never rejected any of my “creations”. I was the youngest and definitely the preferred..So he finished all what I cooked for him. He was still critical.
It was quite encouraging as it pushed me to learn more about food and new trends in cooking. He bought me available French magazines and books. Moroccan being an former French colony, this was easy to come by.
My father loved his fresh fish and he was the one in charge of picking and buying the best of it in the market. His dad was a famous fishmonger in Fez, so Ça coulait de source!
This is one of the light dishes I cooked for him, a long while ago. So I’m sharing it today, as I remembered while reading an old recipe book of mine. I didn’t have fennel fronds this time so the one in the picture was cooked without. It was still tasty.
Prep: 10 min – Baking: 20 min
- 1 sea bass for one or two, descaled and cleaned from the inside
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- Fennel fronds
- 1 tomato
For the marinade
- 3 tbsps of coriander, chopped
- 1 tbsp of parsley, chopped
- 1 tbsp of fennel fronds, chopped (optional, you could use fennel stalks around the fish to compensate)
- 2 tbsps of lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp of ground cumin
- 1 clove of garlic, grated (optional)
- 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
For thick fish, slash the fish through the bone a couple of times from top and bottom. If the fish is relatively small, it’s optional.
Place a good tablespoon of the marinade/paste inside the fish and rub the cavity.
Season the fish with salt and pepper.
Cut 1 large square or rectangle of baking paper and an equally large square or rectangle of foil. Place one on the top of the other so the baking paper is inside while the foil is outside. The size should be at least 3 times the size of the fish.
Grease the middle of the baking paper where you would place the fish. Scatter some fennel fronds (optional). Place the fish in the centre and top it with a couple of tomato slices.
Wrap the fish in order to trap all the steam and seal in the juices. This will cook the fish through and keep it moist, which is the idea behind this type of cooking.
Bake for 20 min for a standard small sea bass (for 1 or 2 persons) or more for an even bigger fish.I like to open it and give it another 4 minutes.
Serve hot with the rest of the marinade, lemon wedges and anything else you fancy on the side.
I use cold leftovers for sandwiches and salads.