In these first few days of January, it seems like pretty much everyone is trying to eat healthier. January has become synonymous with “cleansing” after the indulgence of December and as a way to set oneself straight for a new year. I get that. So here I am to contribute to the cause with a super simple foolproof way to cook moist and healthy seafood every time. But first you need to make sure you have a roll of parchment paper in your kitchen or dash out and buy one. Then we can begin.
It’s all very simple and savory. One – fold chopped fresh tarragon leaves and grated lemon zest into softened butter. Two – sauté thinly sliced fennel to a soft and very lightly browned caramelized flavor. Three – cut parchment paper and assemble packets, making sure to fold and crimp edges tightly to seal packets. Four – bake in a preheated oven, steaming the fish to moist perfection. My simple rule is approximately 10 minutes cooking time per inch of thickness of the seafood fillet measured at its thickest part.
Don’t let the length of the method of preparation scare you off. I just added lots of detail to make it easier to understand how to do it. Fresh lingcod or true cod are my winter favorites for this recipe, but previously frozen halibut or salmon will work well too. Nothing beats the fragrant flavor of fresh tarragon steamed together in the parchment with the sauteed fennel. Two of my all time favorites.
Lay seafood fillet over sauteed fennel then season with salt and pepper and spread tarragon lemon butter over the top
Sealed parchment packet ready to go into the oven.
- ½ cube (4 tablespoons) softened butter
- 1 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves
- 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 medium size fennel bulb
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 skinless lingcod or true cod fillets. 6 ounces each (salmon and halibut can be substituted too. Have the seafood department remove the skin if you don’t like to do it yourself)
- Parchment paper
- Stir together butter, tarragon and lemon zest; season with salt and pepper to your liking. Set aside.
- Trim stem end and stalk from fennel. Remove any brown leaves. Slice in half widthwise, then put cut side down and slice into very thin slices. There should be about 2 cups. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a skillet and cook and stir fennel until softened and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes; allow cooling to room temperature.
- Cut 4 pieces of parchment paper about 13 inches wide (the length of the paper in the box is 15 inches so each piece will be about 13x15 inches). Fold each piece in half then cut into the shape of a heart.
- Divide sauteed fennel between each piece of parchment, spreading it out in a single layer at the center and next to the fold. Lay a cod fillet over the fennel and sprinkle it to your liking with salt and pepper. Spread 1 tablespoon of the tarragon butter over the fillet.
- To seal the packet, fold the top of the parchment paper over to the bottom so the edges match evenly together, then keeping them together fold over several times, crimping and sealing. Twist each end of the packets which will help them stay sealed (recipe can be prepared to this point and refrigerated several hours.)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Put parchment packages in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until seafood is cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes depending on thickness of seafood (per inch the thickness of the fillets, plan on 10 minutes of cooking time.) Transfer parchment packets to individual plates. Carefully cut an opening to allow any steam to escape then tear it back to expose seafood.