Here, Molly Stevens combines mostly ordinary ingredients such as fish, spinach, tomatoes and shallots to create a dish far more elevated than the sum of its workaday parts. Your meal is folded up into a neat little packet of parchment that traps moisture so the fish steams in its own juices while the flavors mingle and intensify. And this method allows for super-easy clean up, woohoo!
The mild-tasting fish, whether it be cod, haddock or flounder fillets, are nestled onto baby spinach and topped with minced shallots, a handful of cherry tomatoes, a splash of white wine or vermouth, and a pat of butter or a drizzle of olive oil. (Our choices were dry vermouth and olive oil.)
Heart-healthy not only in appearance, but in ingredients too! For just the two of us we used two 8-ounce cod fillets, halved the quantity of spinach, but kept the same amount of tomatoes, shallots and parsley.
We were a little concerned that the fish and shallots wouldn’t be done in 14 minutes time, so we cooked for the full 18 minutes, and it was perfect. If using thin flounder fillets, make sure to fold them over into thirds, otherwise they will be overdone.
Three other tried-and-true riffs on fish packets from Molly are Flounder with Buttery Leeks; Salmon and Tomatoes, Capers and Chive Oil; and Sesame-Ginger Shrimp with Baby Bok Choy. We hope do blog on all of them in the future. A pat of butter or drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper are all the embellishments you really need, but incorporating vegetables and garnishes will turn these into complete meals.
Make Ahead: The packets can be assembled several hours before cooking. Refrigerate until ready to bake, and add 4 minutes to the roasting time.
Parchment Packets with Cod, Spinach, Tomatoes and Shallots
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the packets
- 5 oz. baby spinach
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4, 6-oz. cod, haddock or flounder fillets
- 2 Tbsp. finely minced shallots
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, chives or dill
- 1 pt. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (about 2 cups)
- 1/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with racks in the lower and upper thirds. Cut four 24-inch-long sheets of parchment paper. Fold each sheet in half, forming a 12-by-15-inch rectangle and, with a pencil, draw a half-heart shape on the paper, centering the heart on the folded edge and making the heart as large as you can. Using scissors, cut out the hearts. (The heart shape makes sealing easier.)
- Open the heart shapes flat on your counter and lightly butter or oil the center of one side of each. Place a quarter of the spinach close to the crease on the buttered side of each piece of parchment paper. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Divide the fish fillets among the packets, placing them directly on the spinach. (If the fillets are less than 1-inch thick, fold or tuck them into compact bundles that are about 1 inch thick.) Season the fish with salt and pepper and top each with shallots, herbs and tomatoes. If using butter, cut it into smaller pats and place on top of the fillets. If using oil, drizzle a little over each fillet. Splash the wine over the top.
- Fold the other half of the paper over to cover the fish. Then, starting at the top of the heart shape, working with about 2 inches of the edge at a time, fold over about 1/2 inch, pressing down and rubbing your thumb across the fold to make a crisp crease. Move a little way along the edge and fold over a couple more inches, so that your folds are overlapping and double-folded. Continue working your way around the edge of the packet, making overlapping folds, like pleats, always pressing firmly and creasing so that the folds hold. Don’t expect the folded edge to be perfectly even; it will be somewhat crooked — this is part of its charm. Go back around, making a second fold at any place that doesn’t appear tightly sealed. If there’s a slight “tail” when you reach the end, give it a twist to seal. (If you don’t quite master the seal, you can make a quick cheat by stapling or paper-clipping the edges in place.)
- Arrange the packets on two large rimmed baking sheets so that they don’t touch. Bake for 14 minutes. (If the fish packets have been in the refrigerator, increase the time to 18 minutes.)
- Either place the packets directly on dinner plates and provide scissors so that your guests can snip open their own packets at the table, or carefully cut open the packets in the kitchen and slide the contents out onto dinner plates or pasta bowls and serve right away.
Recipe from Molly Stevens cookbook All About Dinner