Outer Banks Style: Fish in a Bag “Fish en Papillote”

Welcome to a culinary journey that takes you straight to the heart of the Outer Banks, where the ocean’s bounty meets the simplicity of local cooking to create dishes that are both soulful and savory. Today, we’re diving into a recipe that encapsulates the essence of coastal living – a delightful Outer Banks-style Fish in a Bag. This dish not only showcases the freshness of locally sourced ingredients but also brings a piece of the Outer Banks’ serene beauty to your dinner table.

Why Outer Banks Cuisine?

The Outer Banks of North Carolina, with its rich fishing heritage and abundant local produce, offers a unique culinary landscape that is as inviting as its picturesque shores. The cuisine here is deeply rooted in making the most of the freshest catch and seasonal vegetables, embodying the simplicity and richness of coastal life.

The Essence of Our Outer Banks-Style Fish in a Bag

Our recipe today celebrates the tradition of the Outer Banks by featuring locally sourced fish as the star of the dish. Paired with a vibrant selection of vegetables and seasoned to perfection, this dish is a testament to the simplicity and flavor of the region’s cuisine.

The Art of “Fish in a Bag” – Embracing “Fish En Papillote”

As we delve into the simplicity and elegance of our Outer Banks-style Fish in a Bag, it’s essential to acknowledge the culinary tradition that inspired this method – “Fish En Papillote.” This French term, translating to “fish in parchment,” is a classic technique that beautifully marries the fish with a medley of flavors through the magic of steam cooking within a parchment paper enclosure.

The Origins of “Fish En Papillote”

The practice of cooking food en papillote is a gem from French cuisine that has been embraced by culinary traditions around the world for its ability to infuse flavors and preserve the moisture of the ingredients.

The term itself, which dates back to the 17th century, signifies more than just a cooking method; it represents a philosophy of treating food with respect and care, allowing the natural essence of the ingredients to shine through.

The technique involves wrapping the food, typically fish along with a variety of herbs, spices, and vegetables, in parchment paper.

The packet is then baked, with the heat creating steam inside the parchment, gently cooking the fish and allowing the flavors to meld together harmoniously. This method not only results in a moist and flavorful dish but also offers a dramatic presentation as diners open the parchment to reveal the culinary treasure inside.

Why “Fish En Papillote” in the Outer Banks?

Adopting the “Fish En Papillote” technique for our Outer Banks-style Fish in a Bag pays homage to the universal love for cooking that respects both the ingredient’s integrity and the environment from which it comes.

The Outer Banks, with its abundant seafood and fresh produce, provides the perfect canvas for this method. By incorporating locally sourced fish and seasonal vegetables, we not only celebrate the region’s culinary heritage but also engage in a practice that emphasizes sustainability and flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb locally sourced fish (think grouper, flounder, or snapper for that authentic Outer Banks touch)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 squash
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1/2 small red pepper
  • 1 dozen mushrooms, stems removed
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
  • Kalamata olives to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Parchment paper

Directions:

  1. Preparation: Begin by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. The magic of this dish starts with the preparation of our vegetables. Thinly slice the onion, squash, red pepper, mushrooms, and zucchini. For an added touch of color and texture, julienne some of the squash or zucchini.
  2. Cooking the Vegetables: Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the sliced vegetables and cherry tomatoes, cooking until tender. Introduce the garlic towards the end to ensure it doesn’t burn, then set aside the mixture, allowing the flavors to meld together.
  3. Assembling the Bag: Cut a large piece of parchment paper, folding it in half and cutting it into a heart shape. This isn’t just for aesthetics – it’s a nod to the care and love that goes into Outer Banks cooking. Place the fish on one side of the heart, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the cooked vegetables and their juices over the fish, then sprinkle with fresh basil and halved Kalamata olives for that briny kick.
  4. Baking: Seal the parchment paper bag, leaving a small opening for steam to escape. Bake on a cookie sheet for 20 to 25 minutes, a perfect interval for the fish to cook through and the flavors to infuse.

Serving Suggestions:

Present the Fish in a Bag directly on your dinner plates, opening the parchment paper to reveal the beautifully cooked fish and aromatic vegetables. Pair with a light, crisp white wine that complements the freshness of the dish.

Conclusion:

This Outer Banks-style Fish in a Bag is more than just a recipe; it’s a journey to the coast, a taste of the sea, and a celebration of local produce. It embodies the spirit of Outer Banks cuisine – simple, fresh, and utterly delicious. Whether you’re a long-time lover of coastal dishes or new to the flavors of the Outer Banks, this recipe is sure to delight your palate and transport you to the sandy shores of North Carolina.

Remember, the key to this dish is in the freshness of the ingredients, so source locally where possible, and enjoy the process of bringing a piece of the Outer Banks to your kitchen.