Grilled Fish in Parchment
I'm fresh off a barbecue competition this past weekend (more on how that went next week) and while gaining a notch in the waistline comes with the territory during one of these events, I returned home with a few extra this time around thanks to the abundance of fried foods that came along with the Jersey Shore location. Between my times of work and cleaning yesterday, I managed to sneak in yet another fried meal for lunch, which I instantly regretted and made me feel like I need to lighten things up for the rest of the week. That got me thinking about some grilled fish and parchment I made last year, and even though I'm not a big fish guy, I found myself really enjoying these refreshing packets of seafood.
Fish in parchment is nothing new, and has no real reason it needs to be grilled, but I wanted to try out this method of gently steaming fish with an array of aromatics and I saw no reason it couldn't be done over the flames. They started out with the requisite parchment paper, which was folded in half and cut out into a half heart shape to create the pocket for the fish to live in.
The idea behind this method of cooking is that additions placed in the parchment alongside the fish will cook and impart flavor on the delicate piece of seafood, and likewise, the fish will add a little flavor to whatever else in the pocket. I did a few seasoning combos the day I made these, but my favorite started with a bed of thinly sliced yellow squash, zucchini, and fennel.
On top of that went lemon slices, then the filet of sole followed by dill, olive oil, salt, and pepper. All of these were light flavors that I hoped would give the final product a soft kiss of freshness and citrus that would compliment and not overwhelm the fish.
Once the ingredients were in place, the packets were sealed by folding the edges together a little bit a time. Starting with the top of the "heart" and working my way around, the final semi-circle shape took form and the packet was ready to be cooked.
At this point the fish can be thrown into a 375 degree oven, but if there's space on the grill, as I had that day, it can be done over indirect heat. You may be hard pressed to actually call this "grilling," but it certainly is a great way to grill fish without the terror of cooking directly on the grates and subjecting yourself to the all too real fears of the seafood sticking or falling apart on the grill. It also solves the problem of being able to cook less grillable fish, like sole and flounder.
The fish sat and gently steamed in their packets until just cooked through, which took roughly 10 minutes over medium-high heat indirect heat. What emerged was a fish that was perfectly tender, having a slight lemony tang and herbal notes from the dill. Those subtle compliments to the sole were the main draw, and thinking about that delicate nature seems instantly appealing right now after coming off a weekend where everything I ate was loaded with fat, heaviness, and flavors meant to overwhelm the taste buds.
Grilled Fish in Parchment
- Yield 4 servings
- Prep 20 Minutes
- Cook 10 Minutes
- Total 30 Minutes
- Four 15-inch square pieces of parchment paper
- 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/8" slices
- 1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/8" slices
- 1 small bulb fennel, thinly sliced
- 2 lemons, cut into 1/4" slices
- Four 4 to 6 ounce fillets of sole, or other white fish
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed juice from 2 to 3 lemons
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 sprigs dill
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Fold parchment paper in half and cut out a half heart shape. Repeat with remaining 3 pieces.
- Open parchment and line middle of one side with alternating slices of zucchini and yellow squash, leaving about 1-inch of space around edges of parchment. Lay fennel slices on top of squash and season lightly with salt and pepper. Arrange 2-3 lemon slices on top of squash and fennel. Arrange fish on top of lemon slices and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place 2 sprigs of dill on top of fish, then drizzle with lemon juice and oil.
- Fold parchment over and seal by rolling edges together all the way around. Repeat with remaining parchment and ingredients to create 3 more pouches.
- Light one chimney 2/3 full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, light half the burners of a gas grill to medium-high heat. Cover and preheat for 10 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place parchment pouches on cool side of grill, cover, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, fish should flake and be opaque all the way through when done. Remove from grill, open pouches, and serve immediately.