What do you do when your husband calls from the boat and says “We caught African Pompano today! Can you come up with an interesting way of cooking it tonight?!?” Hmmm. . .lately we’ve been sauteing our fish a lot and, like he said, he wanted something “interesting.” I decided to go with the “en papillote” method (i.e., cooking in a paper wrapper) ’cause what’s more interesting than wrapping stuff in paper and having a delicious dish magically appear?!?
If you’ve not seen an African Pompano up close, here’s a great shot of our friends Shawn and Jim showing off a beauty. Look at those colors! It’s not too often you catch one, so there were some happy fishermen on the boat.
The best way to prep parchment paper is to cut a large heart shape, then lay your ingredients on one side of the ‘heart’, fold over the other side and tightly crimp/fold the edges of the paper so you’re left with a half heart shape. This way, all the steam stays inside and the flavors permeate the fish. Not only that, it’s easy prep and clean up. A great combo, in my book.
African Pompano is an amazing-looking fish. To be honest, they’re a very cool-looking fish. Hubby’s pals caught two on a recent offshore trip off the coast of Venice, FL. The mild flavor is somewhere between Cobia and Mahi. It’s also a fairly dense fish when cooked (almost to the point of ‘dry’ I would say), so it’s sturdy enough to even toss on the grill, if you want to keep it simple.
Typically, when you cook in parchment you layer ingredients onto the raw fish or meat, producing a very fresh flavor all around. For this dish, I decided to saute the zucchini, mushrooms, onion and garlic in order to gain a deeper layer of flavor before tossing onto the raw fish. It turned out really yummy. You feel kind of ‘exotic’ when you cook something in parchment — it’s sort of fancy and rustic at the same time! How fun.
- 1 lb. African Pompano fillets (split for 2 servings)
- 1 small zucchini, chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 c. portobello (or white) mushrooms, sliced thinly
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. tarragon, dried
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1 Tb. Olive oil
- 3 Tb. Unsalted butter
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Cut a large square of parchment paper (approx. 12X14"). Fold it over once. Then trim the bottom and top (like cutting a Valentine) so you end up with a heart shape.
- Unfold the paper and place pieces of fish on one side.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil & 1 Tb. butter in a nonstick pan.
- Saute the zucchini, onion, mushroom, garlic. Sprinkle with the tarragon. Cook until flavors are combined and the vegetables are soft. Remove and sprinkle over the fish pieces. Sprinkle with lemon juice and zest, dot with remaining butter and season with salt & pepper (to taste).
- Fold the paper over and start crimping/folding from the top of the heart shape, slowly working your way down until all edges are folded and tight. Transfer the packages to a baking sheet.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Place baking sheet in oven and cook for approx. 20 minutes. The edges of the parchment will likely turn brown (that's OK). Remove and let cool a few minutes before serving.
- When ready to serve, place the tip of a sharp knife into the top of the paper and simply peel back the paper to reveal the fish. Serve on a place, as is - no need to take it out of the paper!