Cooking En Papillote & A Photowalk

Fish en papillote

We’re headed for another cold snap this weekend with the possibility of snow at sea level for the first time in 35 years (!!), so I took the chance of some sunshine yesterday to go on a photowalk.

Spring comes early to our part of the Bay Area. By mid-January, blooming trees start lining the streets. The early bloomers get a headstart, foreshadowing the beauty that is to come and remains with us until April. It is a beautiful time of the year (I seem to say that for every season), and irresistibly photogenic. There have been too many occasions when I’ve thought to myself that I should go on a photowalk, and don’t. Yesterday was different. The prospect of a winter storm blowing the petals off these delicate flowers was compelling enough to get me out of the house and immortalize them before it was too late.

Tree blossomsSpring blossomsSpring blossoms

In a juxtaposition of seasons, these blooms were the minority on a street populated with barren trees in the thick of winter. Stripped of their leaves, each tree’s unique structure was laid bare for everyone to see. It’s a characteristic of winter’s landscape that I’m often awed by – the shape and curve of each branch that collectively create a soft, clean silhouette, revealing the personality of each tree that we often take for granted under its lush foliage in the warmer months.

Winter/Spring in the Bay Area also means citrus season, and I had to make a pit stop to marvel at the Meyer lemon trees in our community garden that were heavy and bursting with fruit. Look out for a recipe or two featuring these gorgeous gold treasures in the coming weeks.

Meyer lemon tree

And then I came home and promptly made a light lunch of fish cooked en papillote. It’s one of the simplest and most efficient way of preparing fish with almost anything you have on hand. In the summer we like to use zucchini, peppers and tomato for a ratatouille-esque spin; now in late winter, it’s fennel and carrots, perhaps with thin shavings of yukon gold potato for a heartier package. Mushrooms, parsley and lemon are the absolute basics and feature in every variation, occasionally spiced up with a garlic clove or two.

Fish en papillote

Fish en Papillote
Serves 2

This version is double-wrapped in parchment and foil to really trap the moisture during cooking. I’ve used shiitake mushrooms here, but Nameko mushrooms are another favorite of mine. Any white-fleshed fish (like halibut, sole or Atlantic cod) would suit this cooking method.

2 medium carrots, scrubbed and thinly sliced
1 medium fennel bulb, cut into eighths and julienned
5 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 white fish filets, about ½-pound/ 225 grams each, deboned and cleaned
4 sprigs of parsley
2 sprigs of thyme
4 tablespoons olive oil
Half a lemon, cut into wedges
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut two pieces of parchment paper and foil, each measuring 15-by-20 inches and lay them, parchment atop foil, on your work surface.

2. In the middle of each parchment, evenly distribute about ¾ of the carrot, fennel and mushroom across the two pieces, creating a ‘bed’ for the fish to rest on. This ‘bed’ should approximately match the length of your filet.

3. Lightly season each filet with a sprinkling of salt, then lay them on the bed of vegetables. Top with the rest of the vegetables.

4. Add the thyme and parsley sprigs and a good sprinkling of pepper. Drizzle each package with two tablespoons of olive oil.

5. Bring the long edges of the parchment towards the middle and start crimping the edges together by folding over them twice. Work your way from the middle to the edges of the package, then fold the side edges in so that they bunch together. Wrap the foil around each parchment package, sealing them the same way.

6. Place the packages on an unlined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Let each package rest for 2-3 minutes before serving with a wedge of lemon.

Fresh Carrots


  1. El

    Gorgeous. You are so lucky to have such amazing color this time of year. I’m still looking at 3 feet of dirty snow outside of my window. Hopefully any snow ou get won’t hurt the absolute beauty captured in your pictures! (the fish recipe looks marvelous too!)

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  3. Danielle

    @Sue, Dominique: Thanks!
    @El: I’m sharing these images because I think we all could do with the hope that the cold season is ending!
    @angi: Likewise! Hope you’ve kicked that flu bug where it hurts 😉

  4. Felicia

    Oh how beautiful, those pink flowers!

    It snowed here in Burbank – it was quite surreal to see neighbors running out into their yards squealing with glee, prancing around as the fat snowflakes fell. In some parts of town, kids actually managed to make (albeit shallow) snow angels and very small snowmen!

  5. Gorgeous cherry blossoms. I have been documenting the birth of a tree near our house; unfortunately, it has been too rainy to snap any photos (I was snapping them at 4pm, every Thursday) and the wind has blown off all the blossoms. So sad. I am glad I was able to enjoy looking at yours this brisk afternoon.

  6. OysterCulture

    Aren’t the cherry blossoms beautiful – I could snap pictures of them forever. Now if I could get a scracth and sniff photo as they just smell of spring to me.

    Your fish en Papillote looks amazing and fits right in as a thing of beauty among your amazing photography.

  7. Beautiful photos! Glad to have found your blog via Cheryl Tan. Shall be listening to your radio interview on tips for food photography. And the fish en papillote looks great – feel healthy just looking at the picture!

    All the best,


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