A super-simple, foolproof fish recipe perfect for entertaining! Flaky cod baked in parchment with Mediterranean flavors: thyme, tomatoes and fennel.
Here’s how to cook the easiest fish recipe!
Parchment-roasted cod is perfect for entertaining or a simple, fuss-free supper. The mild, flaky fish steams in individual parchment packages.
While it cooks, a delicious sauce forms inside, with flavors straight from the South of France.
Think fresh fennel, tomatoes and aromatic herbs and you might believe you’re right there in Provence (don’t we wish).
What is cooking in parchment paper called?
This method has existed ever since people discovered fire and started cooking.
Foods that weren’t great candidates for roasting over an open flame (like sides of meat) were protected by some kind of wrapper when they were heated.
Think banana leaves, plant husks, pieces of animal fat or whatever happened to be handy and available.
The method of enclosing food and cooking in a parchment paper package — as the French call en papillote — is ingenious when you think about it.
Every ingredient in the package steams and bastes in its own juices, enhancing taste and preserving nutrients.
It’s pure, simple and maybe best of all there’s no pan to clean!
Well, not counting the baking sheet 🙂
This baked fish recipe layers Provençal ingredients like tomatoes, fennel and garlic with flaky white cod.
Other delicate, quicker-cooking fish like sole, snapper or sea bass would be perfect for this recipe, too.
The packages, each filled with fish, vegetables and seasonings, cook in a hot oven in for just 10 minutes.
The juices created while baking create a light, delicious sauce with the classic flavors of a bouillabaisse.
To serve, unwrap the packages. Have some crusty bread or a cooked grain alongside to enjoy every drop of the sauce.
The fish packages can be assembled ahead up to 4 hours in advance. Store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake them.
As far as recipes go, parchment roasted cod is pretty uncomplicated and requires minimal kitchen tools.
All you need are two rimmed baking sheets and some parchment paper.
That makes this is a recipe to use whenever you’re traveling or staying in a vacation home with less than well-stocked equipment on hand.
I buy precut 12 x 16-inch paper in bulk (it’s way cheaper that way, especially if you do lots of baking).
The pieces fit perfectly on a half sheet pan.
That size paper is what you want to make the parchment packages – if your paper comes in a roll, just measure before cutting.
Cod in Parchment with Fennel, Thyme and Tomatoes
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (or quartered if larger than 2″-inches diameter)
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground fennel seed
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 1 small fennel bulb, stems trimmed and fronds reserved
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 leek, white part only, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced
- 1 pound cod or other flaky white fish, cut into 4 4-ounce portions
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 teaspoons anise-flavored liqueur such as Pernod or Ricard, optional
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Toss the tomatoes with the garlic, fennel seed, black pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl.
- Remove the tough outer layer from the fennel bulb. Thinly shave the fennel with a mandoline or a sharp knife and combine in another bowl with the remaining tablespoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, lemon juice and the leek.
- Fold 4 pieces of parchment paper (12 x 16 inches) in half, then open them flat on a work surface. Place an equal portion tomatoes (about ¼ cup) on the sheets to one side of the fold. Place a portion of fish over the tomatoes. Sprinkle the fish with a little salt, then top with some of the fennel mixture, 1 tablespoon butter and a thyme sprig. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the Pernod over if using.
- Fold the parchment to close. Starting at a corner, make overlapping pleated folds all around to form a half-moon shaped package. The packages can be prepared ahead and refrigerated up to 4 hours in advance of baking.
- Place the packages on 2 rimmed baking sheet (2 per sheet) and bake for 10 minutes. Let them rest 10 minutes.
- Transfer the packages to serving plates and cut open with scissors – sprinkle the fish with reserved fennel fronds and serve immediately.
- The packages can be prepared ahead and refrigerated up to 4 hours in advance of baking.
- Pernod is an anise-flavored liqueur from France. If you don’t have it, leave it out or substitute an equal amount of dry white wine.