Parchment paper grilled fish

Steamed in parchment paper with vegetables is a great way of cooking the mild fillets of bottomfish.
Steamed in parchment paper with vegetables is a great way of cooking the mild fillets of bottomfish.

Bottomfish is a favorite on the table, and this recipe is a great one

Sometimes it seems like it takes spring a while to get going. But it usually manages to make its arrival felt by May. This is time to enjoy being outdoors, especially if that includes enjoying a meal of fresh fish hot off the grill.

There is a little bit of turkey season left, but this is the time to enjoy some fresh fish. Fishing is good and improving. This month’s recipe is based on a deep-water ocean bottomfish. Not everyone runs offshore to where golden tilefish live. But it’s also available from your favorite fish market, and it’s good.

Fishermen are already plying the offshore waters. Wahoo and a few tuna never left during the winter, and they were joined by a growing number of dolphin beginning in April. All of these fish are excellent table fare. But the shallow-water grouper season reopened on May 1, after its annual spawning closure, and a lot of folks are eager to do some bottom-bouncing.

Almost all bottomfish are welcome on most tables. They are white meat and mild in flavor. They taste good to begin with and are just the thing to use in simple recipes like this.

This recipe works with other fish too

This recipe uses golden tilefish, but it works almost as well with grouper, beeliners, large grunts and more. The only requirement is for the fish to have a 6- to 8-ounce fillet that isn’t so thin it overcooks easily. Wrapping it in parchment paper helps, as the fish is steaming in its own juice. The proper term is “fish en papillote,” and it is a nearly foolproof way to prepare fish. Especially those with milder flavor and tender meat.

The trip for golden tilefish is a bit longer than for many other bottom fish, but fishermen often get to or beyond these depths while chasing dolphin, wahoo and tuna. Paying attention to the fish finder while trolling down a rip, color change or temperature break can provide spots to return and look for bottomfish. Some days, when trolling is either frenetic or slow, dropping a few baits into the deep can provide a change — and some different dinner guests.

This recipe works well with a variety of fish. But is just that little bit better with a mild, white-meat fillet cut fresh from a healthy bottomfish. It also cooks quickly and cleans up quickly as it can be eaten from the parchment paper, which is then put in the trash. Give it a try.

Parchment paper grilled fish

This is a nice way to combine a couple of things into a tasty meal. It works well with just about any mild fish. I like it with offshore bottomfish, as the meat is usually firm, but mild. This particular version was made with golden tilefish, and it was really good. If you haven’t eaten golden tilefish, it is very tender, mild and a little sweet to the taste. Golden tilefish are deep-water bottom-dwellers, and most fishermen catch them only rarely, if at all. Commercial fishermen have been catching them, and your favorite fishmonger should have some.

This type of cooking actually steams the fish and vegetables in their juices, the little bit of oil, lemon juice and the spices. For years, I cooked like this, using aluminum foil to wrap the fish. It still works, but I have been convinced that parchment paper is better for recipes that include vegetables and citrus fruits high in vitamin C.

Parchment paper is a great alternative to aluminum foil, especially when grilling and especially when vegetables are involved.
Parchment paper is a great alternative to aluminum foil, especially when grilling and especially when vegetables are involved.

Recent research suggests that when aluminum foil is used during cooking, some aluminum leaches into food. The same research said the aluminum leaching increases with higher heat, like roasting and broiling, and foods that are high in acidity, such as tomatoes, vinegar, and vitamin C–rich produce.

Parchment paper is the key to this recipe

My first reaction was that parchment paper might burn at higher temperatures, especially on the grill. This was easy to check. Most parchment paper is rated for use up to at least 400 degrees. The Reynolds Kitchens parchment paper I used is rated to 420 degrees. If you would prefer to cook this in an oven, preheat to 400 degrees and check the fish at 10 minutes. It should cook in 10 to 12 minutes unless it is a thick fillet.

My grill has double burners but no thermostat. I preheat it with both burners on high, then reduce one to medium and cook on that side. I keep the packets on a vegetable tray; they’re easier to handle.

It takes about 12 minutes for two packets with fillets that are 3/4-inch thick. Thicker fillets will take an few extra minutes, but since you’re cooking with steam, the margin of error is wide. But don’t cook until the fish appears dry or you won’t like it.

It takes about 12 minutes for a packet of fish and vegetables to cook thoroughly.
It takes about 12 minutes for a packet of fish and vegetables to cook thoroughly.

This list is good for four servings

The listed ingredients are for four meals. For this, I prepared and cooked two and saved the ingredients for two for the next day. This fillet was very thick, so I cut 3/4-inch slices off it and used two of them as the base for each meal.

I’m not afraid to change things and encourage experimenting. My wife doesn’t care for spicy foods, so I prepared hers with pepper and Cavender’s. I like to kick things up a step or two, so I used extra pepper and some ground Chipotle pepper, with just a pinch of sea salt. It also works well with a few slivers of fresh jalapeno peppers added to the squash, a touch of garlic, or your favorite spice blend instead of salt.

Give this a try. It works in the oven or on the grill. I like being outside and like it grilled better, but that’s a personal choice.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 fish fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each
  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp
  • 1 zucchini squash
  • 1 summer squash
  • 1 lemon
  • Coarse ground pepper and pink sea salt
  • Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning
  • Olive oil or non-stick cooking spray.
  • Options: jalapeno pepper, garlic, powdered jalapeno, chipotle peppers, Tony Chachere’s Original Creole seasoning, aluminum foil.

PREPARATION: (Serves 4)

Wash the fillets and pat them dry. Peel and devein the shrimp. Slice the squash very thin. Slice the onions thin and cut the slices into pieces a couple inches long.

Cut 4 pieces of parchment paper roughly square at the box width. Center a fillet on each piece of parchment paper. Brush the fillets lightly with olive oil or spray them lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Salt (or seasoning of choice) and pepper fillets to taste.

Lay slices of squash and onions on fillets. Place several shrimp on top of vegetables on each fillet. Lightly season vegetables and shrimp. Squeeze lemon juice over shrimp, vegetables and fillet (to taste). Fold parchment paper in from the sides and roll the edges together to seal.

Preheat grill to 400 degrees (medium high to high, depending on the grill). Cook approximately 12 minutes. The fillets will not brown, they are done when the squash wilts, the shrimp turn pink and the fish is beginning to flake. Allow to set for 2 to 3 minutes before serving. Be careful opening the paper, as there will be hot steam escaping.

This goes well with a baked potato or baked sweet potato. It is also good to begin with a green salad. Since this is for May and things are warmer, a bowl of homemade ice cream makes for an excellent dessert.

Jerry Dilsaver
About Jerry Dilsaver 1146 Articles
Jerry Dilsaver of Oak Island, N.C., a full-time freelance writer, is a columnist for Carolina Sportsman. He is a former SKA National Champion and USAA Angler of the Year.