I lived in Los Angeles for many years and loved to buy the occasional bag of fruit slices from street vendors in the Mexican and Central American neighborhoods of town. Each bag would come with a lime wedge and a chili powder mix in which to dip your fruit slices. It was so refreshing on hot summer days! That combination of sweet, spicy, and tart flavors inspired the colorful salsa for this dish.
Fish en papillote is a classic French technique that looks impressive, but is much easier to prepare than you’d think. Essentially, you create a packet around the fish, and the fish then bakes and steams in the oven. The flavors meld as the fish cooks, and when the packets are finally presented and opened at the table all the beautiful aromas are released to entice the eater.
The method used here is even easier than the traditional technique, and since each portion is self-contained in its own paper packet, cleaning up after dinner is a breeze.
Preheat oven to 450°F. Remove the upper rack of oven. Set remaining rack to the lowest level.
For mango/papaya salsa:
½ c red onion, diced
½ c green bell pepper, diced
1 to 2 jarred chili peppers, seeds and ribs removed, and finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 c mango, diced
1 c papaya, diced
juice of 1 lime
pinch of chili powder, or to taste
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Heat 2 T of cooking oil in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add onions and green peppers. Sweat until soft, stirring frequently, about 8-10 minutes.
- Once the onion mixture has cooked down, stir in the chili peppers, crushed garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 2 minutes to combine the flavors. Transfer the onion mixture to a separate bowl. Reserve.
- Heat another tablespoon of oil in the sauté pan. Add the mango, papaya, and lime juice to pan and cook just until the fruit begins to soften, about 2-3 minutes.
- Return the onion mixture to the pan and stir gently to combine. Season mixture with chili powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and reserve.
1 c rice
1 T cumin seeds
- Prepare rice according to package instructions. (Go ahead and just use leftover rice if you have it.)
- Heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and toast until just beginning to color, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
- Stir the cumin seeds into the prepared rice. Reserve.
To make the papillotes:
2 large tilapia fillets (Any thin, tender, white fish may be substituted)
2 oz butter, cut into small pieces
¼ c dry white wine (preferably unoaked)
4 cilantro sprigs
salt, to taste
parchment paper, cut into 4 large square sheets.
- Cut each tilapia fillet lengthwise, following the center line, so that there are 4 half fillet portions.
- Lay out 4 pieces of parchment paper on a work surface. Spoon a small mound (single portion size) of rice onto the center of each sheet.
- Lay 1 half fillet onto each sheet. Dot each fish portion with 2 or 3 small bits of butter. Spoon 1 Tbsp. of white wine over each portion. Sprinkle each with a pinch of salt. Spoon mango/papaya salsa over each portion. Top each portion with a sprig of cilantro to garnish.
- Gather the parchment paper up around each fish portion and tie with kitchen twine to create 4 parcels. Transfer the 4 packets to a baking sheet.
- Place the baking sheet in oven on the lowest rack. Bake for 9 minutes. Remove from oven. Place each parcel on a plate and serve. Cut the twine of each parcel tableside, so that each diner can enjoy the aroma released as the packet is opened.