Lemon and Thyme Fish en Papillote (Fish in Parchment)

A very happy Valentine’s day to all of you πŸ™‚

When I was a very little girl I loved cutting things out of paper. The fact that one could fold a sheet in half, trim around, and then unfold a heart was amazing to me. I spent hours cutting out little hearts from tiny scraps of paper…

I immediately smiled when I thought of today’s dish. Fish en papillote bakes up quickly, easily, and without a lot of mess. It can be made very low fat, and altered to fit whatever is in season or tickles your fancy. The parchment seals in all the liquids, allowing the fish to cook in its own steam. This results in a bit of delicate, flavored jus at the bottom of every packet. (My parchment is cut a little too small, but it still was workable.) It looks lovely served on a pretty plate — you can even keep the fish in the parchment, but cut the packet open to reveal the food.

The result is a meal that is simple enough for weeknights but special enough for any night:

I like Eric Ripert (of Le Bernadin)’s technique for checking the doneness of fish — he uses a metal pick, slides it into the thickest part of the filet, leaves it in for a few seconds, and then presses it against his hand or chin. If it’s warm, the fish is done. You can do the same with a fork, it’s just a little rougher on the filet!

I am a strong believer of not holding too dearly to recipes — if one does, it can cause a lot of wastage in the kitchen, as well as stifle some cooking creativity. I’m posting two recipes at the end, one specific to what I made, and one, more generic version that will hopefully get you thinking of some good variations!

And because there’s no need to be broken-hearted πŸ˜‰

Lemon-Thyme Tilapia in Parchment, with Asparagus
Serves 2


  • Two tilapia filets
  • Small bunch fresh asparagus, rinsed and trimmed to the length of the fish
  • One lemon
  • Salt, pepper, and thyme — fresh is the best, but dried will do


  • Preheat your oven to 400Β°.
  • Trim a large heart out of a piece of parchment paper — as large as the sheet will allow. Place paper on baking sheet.
  • Place your asparagus on one half of the heart, add a little salt and pepper.
  • Slice thin circles of lemon, about 4-6. Squeeze half of the remaining lemon on the asparagus.
  • Salt and pepper your tilapia slightly. Place the tilapia on top of the asparagus. Squeeze the remaining lemon over top. Cover with lemon slices.
  • Fold over the other half of the heart, and crimp up the edges to seal. Repeat all steps for the second filet.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, or until fish is done, and parchment is puffed and slightly golden. Open and enjoy!

Fish en Papillote – generic recipe

Don’t be afraid of making this “your own” πŸ™‚ Pretty much everything can be swapped and mixed. Here are some possibilities:

  • Fish: any type of fish filet can be used.
  • Vegetable options: zucchini, small-chopped squash, onion, green beans, mushrooms, etc.
  • Liquids/oils: soy sauce, white wine, chicken broth, cream [then we hit the not-so-healthy range!], and butter.
  • Flavorings: citrus zest, garlic, ginger, cayenne, and herbs.

If you already have a sauce from a previous meal, feel free to use it. Make it “themed” — e.g. “Asian” or “Mediterranean,” or add additional shellfish (shrimp?) on top.Β Or perhaps you’d rather sautee some mushrooms in butter, and add a little cream to the concoction before pouring it over? Fine with me. What I’m trying to say is: don’t worry πŸ™‚


  • Fish fillet
  • Vegetables — feel free to mix multiple, and if large, cut so they can cook through in ~10 minutes of roasting
  • Flavorings — salt, pepper, herbs, whatever’s in season
  • Liquid — a few spoonfuls of broth, oil, juice, etc.


  • Preheat oven to 400Β°.
  • Season fish and vegetables, place in parchment.
  • Cover with a few spoonfuls of liquid.
  • Crimp up parchment, bake for ~10 minutes or until done.

3 thoughts on “Lemon and Thyme Fish en Papillote (Fish in Parchment)

  1. Pingback: new series! post 1 | spill the beans

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