fish in parchment paper


This summer my mother had her gallbladder taken out.  It wasn’t that she had a medical emergency or anything.  It was more preventative than anything else, to make sure she wasn’t going to have problems in the future.  But (biology lesson here) since the gallbladder is what stores the bile that helps to digest fat, now that she doesn’t have one, well, she obviously can’t digest as much fat.

And I know that she’s the one that had the surgery and all, but this produces a bit of a personal problem for me.  Because one of the reasons I love to cook is that I love to cook for my family.  And I especially like to cook for my mother because she knows how to get excited about food done really well.  And now, my favorite things to make, things like luxurious pastas and cheesy pastries and creamy chicken, aren’t things that I can really make for her anymore.  Even my favorite cut of chicken (the thigh) has more fat than the breasts.  And my mom is trying not to eat as much red meat.

So we’re all having to figure things out a bit diet-wise, and I am determined to be prepared next time they come over for dinner.  And this is what I will make.  Aside from a bit of olive oil it is virtually fat free.  But since it’s cooked in wine with lemon we don’t miss anything flavor wise.

And this is one of those deceptive dishes that looks really complicated and fancy, but is really not all that difficult or time consuming to make.  The biggest trick is figuring out how to seal the parchment paper (my tip: just keep folding the folds on top of one another and try to make it look like a pocket pie).  But when it comes out and you put a whole packet of parchment paper on your plate and cut into it, all that steam rises up full of wine and smelling like butter even though there’s no butter inside (not that you can’t do that) and you have a treasure of a meal.

About two years ago (wow! two years?) when I was sitting in Houston feeling terribly homesick and watching Food Network all the time, all I wanted to do was cook a nice meal from my family.  I wanted my parents and/or Gerrit’s parents  gathered around my table.  I wanted plates of hot food.  I wanted special desserts and meals together not just because of holidays, but because of regular days.

I’m so glad I have that now.  And, as a picky eater who’s stomach often sinks and mood often changes when I see what I’m being served, I want everyone to be able to come over to my house and have something delicious (and diet appropriate) to eat.  Especially my mom.

Fish in Parchment Paper
adapted from Anne Burrell

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Serves 4

4 tilapia fillets (or another white fish)
Olive oil
2 lemons, sliced
12 thyme sprigs
1 cup dry white wine

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cut 4 large circles out of parchment paper and fold them in half, creasing them down the center.
2. Open the parchment paper back up and place 1 piece of fish right below the crease on each piece of parchment paper.  Drizzle the fish with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Places 2-3 lemon slices on each piece of fish along with 3 sprigs of thyme.
3. Fold parchment paper over the fish and, starting on one edge and working around the half circle, fold the bottom of the parchment paper up over the top several times to seal the fish in the parchment paper.  Before sealing the very last section, pour 1/4 cup white wine into the packet, and then finish sealing it.
4. Place the packets on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, until the fish is cooked through and flaky.
5. Serve hot in the pouch.  Let your diners cut into their pouch at the table.

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