Nouvelle Pompano en Papillote

There are few worse travesties than the pompano en papillote found in traditional New Orleans restaurants. It starts with the best fish there is–one so good that sauces tend to detract from, not add to, the flavor. Then this great fish goes into a parchment bag with the gloppiest kind of light-roux, white-wine, three-or-four-seafood sauce. What comes out is anonymous, if rich.

I will admit, however, that the idea of the papillote–to keep the fish moist by cooking it essentially in its own steam–is a fine idea. Looks nice, too. So here’s my take. It starts with flounder, a milder fish that steams well. Small salmon and freshwater trout also work well. Of course, you could use actual pompano.

The parchment paper you need for this is more easily available than it once was, and it’s always at kitchen stores.

  • 4 fillets of flounder (or pompano, trout, or salmon), about 6 oz. each
  • 2 Tbs. softened butter
  • 1/2 cup green onions, green part only, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 stalk celery, cut into matchsticks
  • 4 tsp. fresh dill, snipped fine
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs. white wine
  • 1/4 tsp. Tabasco jalapeno pepper sauce
  • Salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

1. Cut the paper large enough to enclose the fish completely, with enough overlap to fold over to make a tight seal.

2. After washing the fish fillets and checking for bones, generously butter each fillet. Place them on the parchment paper. Top with the green onions, celery, dill, and tarragon.

3. Combine the lemon juice, white wine, and Tabasco. Sprinkle the mixture all over the fish. Add salt to taste.

4. Fold the paper over and fold the edges down hard, then fold down again to seal the pouch as securely as possible. Place the papillotes on a baking pan and place them in the center of the oven. Bake for 15-18 minutes (longer if the fish is thick).

5. Remove the papillotes from the oven and place on serving plates. Serve immediately with a sharp steak knife for opening the bags. The fish should be eaten right out of the bag. (On a plate, of course.)

Serves four.

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  1. michael rosenfeld on July 1, 2015

    When you say in the recipe to use a “stalk of celery” sliced match stick thin, don’t you mean one rib of the stalk??? Just asking——