The term en papillote is a technique of cooking where the food is enclosed in paper or foil and then cooked in the oven, steaming the fish while enveloping it in flavour and juices. The method has been used across the world, throughout history - from the far east to Europe, and on to New Orleans where a certain French immigrant, Antoine Alciatore, developed a dish “pompano Mongolfier”, in honour of the Montgolfier brothers who had created the first balloons. His son Jules coined the phrase “pompano en papillote” because the steam puffing up the parchment is reminiscent of a hot air balloon.
1 Fillet of sea bream
- ½ head of fennel
- ½ lemon zest and juice
- A pinch of chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp of butter
- 80ml dry white wine
- 4 pink fir potatoes
- Small handful of parsley, chopped
- 2 anchovies, chopped
- 1tbsp capers, chopped
- 1 small clove of garlic, peeled and grated
- Olive oil to cover
- Salt & pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C (normal) | 180°C (fan) | gas mark 6
Place the potatoes into cold, salted water and bring to the boil, cook them for 15 minutes or until they are cooked through. Drain and peel when cool enough; keep to one side. Slice the fennel into thin strips and blanch in boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes, drain and set to one side.
Tear off a square of tinfoil and lay it flat on your worktop; this needs to be large enough to encompass the fish. Tear off a slightly smaller square of baking parchment and lay it on top of the tin foil. Place the fish onto the parchment and season with salt and pepper. Add the fennel, lemon, chilli and butter before folding up the sides of the foil to form the bag, leaving a little spout to pour in the wine, and do so. Place into a preheated oven and cook for 15 minutes.
Make the salsa verde by combining all the ingredients and coving with olive oil. Dress the potatoes with the salsa and serve alongside the steamed fish.
Movie Recommendation: JFK (1991)
The technique of cooking in paper has been present in cultures throughout history. However, the term En Papillote, meaning 'in parchment', originates from the French Quarter of New Orleans, specifically to Antoine's - the oldest family run restaurant in the world. The establishment features twice in Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK, with a cameo from Antoine's very own Maitre d'!