Crappie En Papillote
by Vernon Summerlin
I ordinarily don’t know what my monthly recipe will be and which tidbit I’ll expand on until I sit at my computer. This time, however, it came from reading Consumers Report’s monthly newsletter, On Health. Their topic for August was steaming fish, poultry and veggies for low-calorie nutritious meals. I don’t often steam fish except when wrapping them in foil and burying the package under campfire coals. At home, I use an air fryer for cooking low-calorie fish meals.
Steaming crappie en papillote is a lot like air-frying in that you use very little oil. First, you create a pouch of parchment and then add fish, seasonings and a little oil if you like. Once you seal the pouch, it’s ready for the oven.
But how about that pouch?
It’s called en papillote. That’s French meaning “in parchment” or “in paper.” You can use aluminum foil instead but where’s the adventure in that?
Parchment is a cellulose-based composite that has been processed to give the paper the additional properties of being heat-resistant, non-stick and grease-resistant. You can buy parchment bleached or unbleached. Most are oven-safe up to 420 F. and certified food safe, meaning that its components will not migrate to food, nor will it affect the flavor or texture of the food it comes into contact with. When it comes to cooking or storing your food in parchment, you don’t have to worry about leaching. Also, it can be composted. Be sure not to confused it with wax paper, that’s paper coated with paraffin wax and will smoke or burn if it gets too hot.
Steaming Crappie In Paper
- Crappie, thin fillets
- Olive oil
- Lemon, thin slices
- Zucchini, thin slices
- Olives, sliced
- Thyme, sprig
- Salt & pepper
Place a drop of oil at the center of a large piece of parchment or foil. Add fillet(s), lemon, zucchini, olives, thyme, salt and pepper. Make sure you seal the pouch so stream can’t escape. Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 25 minutes or until the paper is puffed and fish are done. Be careful opening your pouch because the steam can burn you.
Preparing your pouch, as easy as one, two, three.
- Fold a sheet of parchment or aluminum foil in half and crease,
- Place fillets on one side then fold the empty half over to enclose all ingredients,
- Twist the last fold at the bottom several times to make a tight seal, fold it under the packet.
Stove Top Steaming
Steaming offers several choices of liquids; water, white wine, beer, broth or fruity-flavored vinegar such as raspberry or fig. Avoid dairy or coconut milk that may curdle and tomato sauce that can burn.
And you have a varied selection of seasonings and herbs. Lemon peel and dill are natural partners for fish. Add onion slices, thin strips of jalapeno, thyme, parsley, a dash of oil (sesame, olive, etc).
After the fish is steamed, reduce the liquid to a thicker sauce, concentrating the flavors. Another approach is to grind your spices and herbs to make a rub that you let sink in your fish for an hour before steaming. To help your rub stick to the fillets brush with lemon juice or flavored vinegar then pat the spices on to all sides. For an Asian-style rub, grind equal parts Szechuan pepper, garlic powder, black pepper and cumin. If you want to head to the Southwest, rub the fillets with a mixture of equal parts ground chili, garlic powder, dry mustard and oregano.
Steam your fish in a steamer basket over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the burner down so the liquid simmers under the steamer basket. Heat the fish until it’s opaque and cooked throughout. Test the fish for by dragging the tines of a fork over the center of a fillet. The muscle tissue will separate easily.
Like To Marinate Your Fish?
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Herbs such as cilantro, basil, rosemary or thyme
Combine olive oil, fresh lemon juice and fresh herbs with stems removed and loosely chopped. Place in a zipper-type plastic bag, remove as much air as you can, coat the fillets and set in your ’fridge for 15 minutes before steaming. Be careful not to marinate more than 30-60 minutes because acids will cook your fish.