I love old school technique in cookery. We as humans have come a long way from fire. Imagine the lessons learned along the way. Those lessons that later have become techniques — or rules — in cookery.
Why are the rules of a proper sauté important to follow? Hot pan, little oil/fat, ingredients cut very fine for fast finishing. You simply cannot place all those ingredients into a pan, turn on your burner and expect the same results.
One challenge I face often preparing for large groups of guests is always keeping the food hot and fresh. I often cook meals as close to the set eating time so the food is as good as it can be. Many factors can greatly effect achieving this, but when successful, it is a great feeling.
Fish, when ordered in bulk for guests, is a tough one. Cooking two to three at a time for restaurant service is easy and simple; cooking for 50 plus, there is little room for error. Cook it too soon, the fish may dry out, shrink, begin to fall apart, become tough and chewy. Cook it too late, and it may not be cooked all the way, which depending on the fish, may not be a bad thing.
The technique of this preparation gives the chef a little more wiggle room and shrinks down the chances of ruining the fish. The term is walleye cooked in paper.
Around here, we love to bread and deep-fry our walleye. This is sort of the same thing, just a much lighter and healthier version. The breading protects the delicate fish and steams it within. Cooking it in paper does the exact same thing.
Parchment paper is used in most kitchens. If you want to get really old school, season the fish as you would and cover it in clay and bury into the earth over hot coals.
In kitchens, we often get precut sheets of parchment paper — halves and wholes. For a fillet up to 8 ounces, I use half-sheets. These will typically be the right length for that size. Anything bigger you may need to use a whole sheet.
Walleye En Pappilote
1 half-sheet of parchment paper
1-8 ounce skinless fillet of walleye
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 small splash of white wine — something not too dry
¼ tomato chopped into small dice (seeded and skinned if preferred but not necessary)
1 lemon zested, halved (the first half sliced; the other part will be for juicing over fish)
Lemon zest chopped fine
2 cloves garlic minced
Fresh parsley chopped fine
Mix the minced garlic, parsley and lemon zest together.
Folding the parchment sheet in half lengthwise, you then begin to make a heart shape. Sort of like when you first used scissors in school. Starting a little farther in the sheet, you cut outward and back in. Open the paper up and reveal your heart shape.
I will take some melted butter and spread it over the sheet. Then I take the flat side of the fish and place it along the crease of the paper.
At this point, I will add a little more melted butter over the fish. Now you can season the fish further. Sprinkle your salt over top, a gentle squeeze of lemon juice, white wine, tomato and then your gremolata.
Now you can begin to close the sheet. I like to start from the tip shape of the paper, folding the paper in toward the rounded side of the fish and then working my way to the other side of the paper, where I will tuck the paper in to itself to prevent the juices from escaping.
Place your en pappilote on a sheet pan and top with a slice of lemon. Pop it into a 350-degree oven for roughly 8 to 10 minutes, all depending on the size of the fillet.
Once the fish has been removed from the oven, let cool for a minute or two before serving. This will not only let the fish rest for a short moment, but it will allow time for the steam to settle making the paper finger friendly from burn. When you open up the paper, you will have the most delicate fish that is sitting in a flavorful beurre blanc sauce
I enjoy this dish alone, followed by a vegetable side or salad. You can serve this for your next dinner party as a way to wow your guests.
Happy fishing and eating to all!