Chef Hydel at le Cordon Bleu discussing papillote finesse. I was fortunate enough to attend a MasterChef event at the school. What was in the cool MasterChef wooden box at the class that day? Pears, marscapone, walnuts.

Anything En Papillote sounds elegant, and I suppose it is. But I was reminded recently that it is really just a fancy way of cooking something in a packet. Like the foil packets over the fire when camping. Foil, in that case for sure, because the parchment would burst into magnificent and alarming flames (different story-but I think you may already have a pretty good visual of it). But in the oven, either parchment paper or foil can be used.  The food is steamed within the packet, and whatever seasonings and herbs are used impart their lovely flavor. Wine or broth is added to the packet just before baking, to create the steam during the cooking. The suggested presentation is tableside, as when removed from the oven the parchment has puffed up with the steam. A cut with the knife causes the steam to escape and the little balloon of parchment deflates, allowing view of the gently cooked food inside. Desserts of apples, pears or other fruits may be made in this manner as well.

Snapper En Papillote

Yield: 4


4- 5 ounce 1-inch thick red snapper fillets

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage or another herb that you prefer (I use fresh thyme and oregano)

1 teaspoon fresh parsley (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

2 teaspoons orange zest (I use 1 teaspoon lemon and 1 teaspoon orange)

3 Roma tomatoes, diced

1/2 bell pepper, julienned thinly (red bell pepper makes a nice presentation)

1/2 sweet onion, julienned thinly

12 Kalamata olives, sliced

1 cup wine or broth (I use white wine) or combination of white wine and Pernod if you like anise flavor

2 Tablespoons butter


Preheat oven to 375 degrees with the rack in center position

Cut 4 12-in by 12-inch squares of parchment paper or cut pieces into a large, fat  heart-shape and set aside

Brush the parchment paper with melted butter, leaving approximately a  1- inch border around the edges.

Place fish onto one side of the parchment (place off-center onto your packet material so that the other half may be folded over and sealed)

Season with salt and pepper, herbs, and place pieces of julienned vegetables over each. Add zest and top each with some butter.

The fish is ready to cook and the parchment is ready to close

Fold parchment edges over onto themselves, rolling and crimping well over onto themselves, creating a well-sealed packet but leave an opening of 2 inches on one edge to pour the wine or broth into.

Leave a small opening to pour broth or wine in before final seal

Carefully place the packets onto a baking sheet (s). Do not stack or overcrowd the packets on the baking sheets. Slowly, pour approximately 1/3 cup wine or broth into each packet through the opening and then finish sealing the packet well. Be sure the packet is really crimped and sealed so that steam can build up inside while cooking, and the liquid does not leak out.

Place the baking sheet(s) into the preheated oven and bake for 17-20 minutes. The packets of parchment will puff and brown slightly.

The suggested presentation is tableside, bringing the sealed papillotes on a platter, then slicing open and carefully serving the fish onto plates to serve.