Red Snapper En Papillote

With President’s day coming up, I thought I would make a traditional American Indian meal. This one celebrates the local ingredients in America, particularly of the deep South. The woman there combined fresh fish and fruit at the same meal. They would steam fish with oranges or wild grapes to make very original and tasty dishes. I decided to use lemon, shallot, and parsley instead to make a simple gremolata for the fish to bake with. A little Native American influence and Italian influence for today.

The original recipe called for 2 whole snappers, simply caught, cleaned, then baked. You can find whole snappers in speciality stores, but I decided to use filets instead to cut the cooking time. I served these snappers “en papillote”(French) or “al cartoccio”(Italian), meaning baked in parchment paper. Many cultures have variations on this method using banana leaves, yucca leaves, cassava leaves, all creating a moist environment for the fish or meat to steam and cook. The advantage is that you don’t need to add much, or any fat to add moisture, because the fish stays moist in its own little package. It’s a great low fat cooking method!
I served the fish with simply roasted asparagus and homemade bread. It was a light and perfectly balanced meal. It does take a little practice to fold up the papillote, but your guests will really appreciate opening up there own little personalized packages, seeing the steam fly, and discovering their meal!
Red Snapper baked with Lemon (4 servings)
  • 4 red snapper filets (1 lb)
  • 1/2 cup tightly packed chopped parsley
  • 1/2 lemon, zested
  • 2 Tablespoons shallot, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • drizzle of olive oil (optional)
  • about 1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 4 sheets of parchment paper (do not use wax paper)
1. Preheat the oven to 425 F and get out a baking sheet.
2. Combine the parsley, shallot, and lemon zest and set aside.
3. Fold parchment paper sheets in half. Make sure they are long enough to cover a little beyond the ends of the fish. Place the snapper filet against the crease. Drizzle olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper, and then cover the fish in about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the gremolata (parsley mixture).
Fold over the parchment paper to cover the fish. Start at the end to fold in then rotating around, continue to fold the parchment paper until reaching the other end of the fish. Then, fold under on the last fold. Place on the baking sheet. Repeat for the 3 other filets. (You’ll get better at the folding each time! promise)
For a tutorial, go here. I used a rectangular piece of parchment instead of a heart and it worked fine. No need to get out the scissors. Fast forward to 1:38 min. to get to the folding.
A little variation, with asparagus stems

4. Bake at 425 F for about 6 1/2 minutes, if the snappers are thin. You may have to sacrifice one to check doneness if they are thicker, or cook 8-10 minutes to be sure. Serve with slices of lemon on top.

Simply Roasted Asparagus
  • 1 bunch asparagus, bottoms trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • less than 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest and juice of half of lemon to finish (optional)
On a baking sheet, lined with parchment for easy clean up if you prefer, place asparagus and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Roast at 425 F for 10-12 minutes of until slightly tender. Try one. These were thin asparagus, thicker ones may need a little more time for roasting. But remember, better to slightly undercook, than overcook, especially for nutrition.

Finish with lemon zest and lemon juice if you like. Serve alongside the fish.

*Don’t throw out the woody stems of the asparagus, make soup with it! Chop up the stems into a small dice and saute them with some garlic, shallot, or onion ( about 1-2 teaspoons). Then, add about 1 cup chicken broth or vegetable stock and simmer until tender. Add a squeeze of lemon. Puree it and you have a great asparagus soup for tomorrow!

For Nutrition Facts on Red Snapper and Roasted Asparagus, please visit Shape Up America!

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