Tilapia with Tomatoes, Fennel and Olives in Parchment

Serves 6

6 large pieces parchment — at least 20″ x 15″ (bakery pan liners are the perfect size)
Olive oil spray*
2T olive oil
6 fillets of seasonal fish — mahi mahi, tilapia, snapper, etc.
3 shallots, sliced thin on mandoline
1T roasted garlic puree (which I have in the freezer because I’m weird like that…but 2 cloves of chopped garlic works just fine)
1 fennel bulb, sliced thin on mandoline
3 plum tomatoes, sliced
18 kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half
2T capers
dried red pepper flakes
Modified Beurre Blanc recipe (below)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Heat 2T olive oil in large pan.  When hot, add shallots and saute for 1 minute; add garlic and saute for an additional minute.  Add fennel and saute until wilted but only barely brown.  Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Prepare packets: place one sheet of parchment on a large flat work surface. Spray the inside lightly with olive oil spray and place fish fillet in center.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add 1/6 of the tomatoes, 1/6 of the shallot/garlic/fennel mixture, 1/6 of the capers and 1/6 of the olives.  Place 1-2T of beurre blanc on the fish, depending on the size of your fillet.  Add dried red pepper flakes, if desired (yes, do it…even if you don’t think you like “spicy” food)

Now — my favorite way of encasing the fish is to insert a straw into the folds of the parchment before crimping, and then blow it up before removing the straw — but only two of these giant but impressive creations will fit in a standard home oven, so it’s not very useful when cooking for six…or forty…

The packet design that won the most votes was the most simple — carefully bring up the two sides of parchment, the one closest to you and its opposite (the longer sides, if your parchment is not square).  Fold the ends together and continuing folding/rolling the parchment toward you until it is about 2″ above the surface of your fish/vegetables.  Use the same rolling/folding technique on each end, tucking the ends underneath the packet.  Lightly spray the outside with olive oil spray.

Bake for about 10 minutes and serve in the packet.  Packets may be cut open at the table, but be careful of the hot steam…

*OLIVE OIL SPRAY — Trader Joe’s sells an olive oil spray in a can, but you can find refillable sprayers everywhere.  They come in two popular styles — those that use air pressure and those that need various canister propellants.  I don’t mind pumping my air-propelled sprayer, since it means I don’t have to worry about keeping a supply of propellant canisters around, something at which I know I would fail miserably and then the sprayer would end up shoved in the back of a cabinet somewhere and I’d have to resort to Pam or some such thing instead.  Sprayers start at about $6.


Beurre Blanc is a simple butter-based emulsified sauce made from (duh) butter, wine, and vinegar.  Some use cream, others do not.  We found that the thickness the cream adds makes it perfect in this dish — it’s easier to contain in the parchment while you’re trying to fold it than a thinner beurre blanc would be, and the cream helps keep the sauce from pooling in spots rather than coating the fish evenly.  The added lemon juice also helps stiffen the sauce.

1t olive oil
2T shallots, finely chopped
1/4c white wine
1/4c vinegar (white wine vinegar is great, but we use white balsamic too)
1/3c heavy cream
1/8c fresh lemon juice
1/4t salt
1/8t white pepper
1/4c unsalted butter

Saute shallots in olive oil for 1 minute.  Add wine and vinegar and boil until syrupy, about 5 minutes.  Add all ingredients except butter and boil an additional minute.  Reduce heat to low and add 1T of butter at a time, whisking it in until fully incorporated.

(At this point, our beurre blanc for 40 wasn’t thick enough for my liking, so we added more butter.  Lots more butter.  So much more butter that I am too embarrassed to print it here.  A little more cream, a lot more wine and lemons, and voila!  It came together perfectly, somehow.  So if your sauce is not as thick as you would prefer, feel free to add more butter…remembering that the lemon juice will help bind the cream and thicken it, too…)

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