Cod Steamed in Parchment with Asian Flavors

I’ve rediscovered the simplicity of steaming seafood in a package – somehow I’d forgotten how easy, low-calorie and delicious this method is for quick, healthful meals.

In my late teens, I spent a few summers on a beautiful rocky island off the coast of New England, waiting tables at night and lounging on the beach by day. I was part of a crew of young restaurant rats – waiters, maids, dishwashers and cooks who migrated to the island every season. Each one of us was seduced by the promise of a summer spent hiking, biking, and swimming in the ice-cold Atlantic, subsidized by the summer people for whom we worked our tushies off in exchange for cash tips.

You were considered lucky if you landed a job in one of the old hotels because that meant you had an inexpensive place to live for the season. The large Victorian houses would often offer the whole top floor - former servants’ quarters - for employees to room dormitory-style.

It sounds quaint, but in reality it was more John Belushi than E.M. Forster – think post-adolescent boys, keg parties and shared bathrooms.

The real perk of the job turned out to be the surfeit of pristinely fresh seafood: mussels, clams, swordfish and bluefish just pulled from the surrounding sea. On our nights off, since we didn’t have kitchens, we’d fire up a little hibachi grill and get dinner ready. We’d wrap whatever fresh fish was available in foil, throw in a little seasoning and place the packet on the grill. Minutes later, we’d have a meal we could eat straight out of the foil, maybe with some grilled island corn on the side.

The beauty of this method lies not only in how easy and quick it is put dinner on the table, but that you use little or no fat. The fish cooks in its own juices and is enhanced by whatever herbs, aromatics and thinly sliced vegetables you include.

I used Asian flavors like sesame, chili and scallions in this recipe, but you could use sliced cherry tomatoes, basil and minced garlic to go Mediterranean-style, or use carrot, leeks and parsley for a more simple French flavor. Just remember to cut the vegetables into small, thin pieces - the cooking time is quick.

Cod Steamed in Parchment with Asian Flavors
Serves 2

1 skinless fish fillet, such as cod, salmon or halibut (about 1 pound)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons gomasio *
Pinch of dried chili flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Lay an 11 x 14-inch piece of parchment over a large sheet of aluminum foil. (The foil helps keep any juices from leaking out of the package)

Arrange fish in the middle of the parchment; sprinkle with onions, ginger, sesame oil, gomasio, chili flakes, salt and pepper.

Gather the two long edges of the foil together and fold down over the fish to make a neat package, tucking the short ends together over the top.

Place the packet on a large baking sheet and bake 15 - 20 minutes. The fish will be opaque and flaky when done.

* a blend of sesame seeds, salt and seaweed available in the natural or international section of well-stocked grocery or natural foods stores; substitute plain toasted sesame seeds if you can’t find it.

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Liza said...

Thanks for the reminder! Somehow I always forget about this option when I am hungry and in a hurry. This looks SO good.

janelle said...

Ah, good timing. I just went to the grocers and bought some sole; will be using the parchment trick tonight.

Funny, those old stories from our early days:). Thanks for sharing.

Emiline said...

Did you end up spending the summer dancing with Patrick Swayze?
Heh, heh.

This sound delicious. I kind of stay away from the seafood in this area, though.
I've never heard of gomasio.

AnticiPlate said...

I love cooking fish in parchment or "en papillote". It doesn't make your house smell like fish, and it is healthier than frying it:) Also, it is great for presentation at a dinner party!

Karen said...

Liza - enjoy!

Janelle, that is good timing. Bring on the parchment.

Emiline, if only!

Gomasio is macrobiotic holdover, but really just a simple mixture of sesame seeds, seaweed and salt. Kind of like sushi flavors in a jar. Really good!

Anticiplate, you are right on. Unwrapping the fish produces aWOW factor for sure. So impressive, yet so easy.

Happy cook said...

Wow just delicious.
I can imagine how juicy the fish was tasting. And not to mention when you opend up that parcel the aroma... yummm

Heather said...

You forgot to mention the beauty of not having a pan to wash at the end!

Isn't that funny when people cook the same thing across the interwebs when they don't even know each other?

Pixie said...

Hi Kate,

Thanks for stopping by. We tried this method with sea bream and agree it produces such a wonderful flavour and it so easy. Must try it with cod one day!


noble pig said...

I've always wanted to try this, I think I've finally been inspired!

Karen said...

Yes, Happy Cook, who knew that cooking in paper could produce such sensual pleasures!

Heather - yes! That's a huge perk.

Blogging about what we eat brings us all together - very cool.

Thanks, Pix! I don't think we can get sea bream here, but I'll bet it's great prepared this way.

Noble Pig - that's great! I hope you enjoy.

Sarah said...

Wow, it's been so long since I've done anything like this! I love steamed fish and seafood - maybe I'll do some scallops tonight!

CamillaCooks said...

This looks so wonderful, Karen. I've been meaning to post for some time to let you know how much I enjoy your blog; your writing is wonderful and the recipes look so good!

(I have you listed on my blog as one of my faves--thanks Karen!)

Anonymous said...

looks so healthy i'm not sure i could eat it! haha
karen - what's one thing you couldn't do without in the kitchen? seriously, could not do without? just wondering. definately looking forward to primo visit this summer in rockland. oh yeah!

Deborah Dowd said...

I love cooking fish with herbs and veggies i parchment. It turns out great and make you look like a real gourmet, impressing guests. You've inspired me, I haven't had this in awhile, but I will pull out the parchment!

Lore said...

What a flavoured healthy bite! Looks delicious!

Karen said...

Sarah, I think that sounds delicious. I love scallops.

Hi Camilla, I'm glad you stopped by!

Maine626 - I know what you mean about "too" healthy. I have days when all I crave is tofu and vegetables, but that's after eating a big juicy burger.

Hmmmm, one thing I couldn't do without? That would have to be good old kosher salt. I was going to say Parmigiano-Reggiano - it's kind of like salt, isn't it?!

Deborah, I'm glad to know that you are dusting off the parchment! Let me know how you like it.

Thanks, Lore!

valentina said...

I miss Cod! I obtain only dried cod here:(

What a great dish you've whipped up!:)

Karen said...

Hi Valentina.

Dried salt cod is good, but really completely different from the fresh version, isn't it?

I like to make fritters with dried cod - yum...

Warda said...

I love baking fish in parchement. The fish stays firm, fresh and I love to mop up the juice. Yum!

Karen said...

Warda, it is pretty yummy.