Surmai en Papilotte

Makes 4 servings.

Despite any worry its elegant French name might induce, “en papilotte” or baking in paper packets is one of the easiest ways to cook surmai or seer fish. As the fish bakes in its packet, it steams in its own juices and absorbs any flavourings you’ve added. This results in an incredibly tender, moist, and perfectly cooked fillet. It also feels special because everyone gets their own little packet, which they can individually unwrap. Here’s the best part—since you can assemble the packets in advance and store them in the fridge, surmai en papilotte is a great make-ahead dinner for lazy weekends or busy weeknights.

At a glance

– This recipe comprises surmai en papilotte
– You will need baking parchment and baking trays.
– This recipe has been broken into 1 stage for ease and comprehension. Please read the entire recipe from start to finish before beginning.

Stage 1: surmai en papilotte

To make ahead, prepare the parchment packets as instructed below and store them in the fridge for up to 4 hours prior to baking.

1. 4 x 125 gm surmai fillets (boneless and skinless)
2. 1 small red onion (60 gm)
3. ½ medium green zucchini (80 gm)
4. ½ large carrot (75 gm)
5. 120 gm cherry tomatoes
6. 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
7. 1 tsp salt + extra for sprinkling
8. 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper + extra for sprinkling
9. 60 ml white wine
10. 1 lemon
11. 4 sprigs fresh parsley for garnishing

For the butter:
12. 4 tbsp (50 gm) salted butter, softened
13. 4 small cloves of garlic
14. Leaves from 4 sprigs of fresh parsley
15. Zest from 1 lemon (about 2 tsp)

You needn’t use sumai or seer fish in this recipe. You could just as well use Rawas (Indian Salmon), Salmon, Sea Bass, Trout, or Red Snapper. Whichever fish you use, seek boneless, skinless fillets and avoid using river fish. 

1 – Begin preheating your oven to 190OC. 

2 – Cut 4 squares of baking parchment, measuring 13 x 13 inches.

3 – Julienne your zucchini and carrot, cutting them to the size of matchsticks. Cut your onion lengthwise into 2 mm slices. Cut your cherry tomatoes in half. Mince your garlic. Zest your lemon and then finely slice it into 2 mm rounds, removing the seeds. Finely chop 4 sprigs of parsley. Set aside

4 – In a large bowl, mix together the julienned onion, zucchini, and carrot. Add the olive oil and toss everything together to combine. Set aside.

5 – In a small bowl, mix together the butter, minced garlic, lemon zest, and finely chopped parsley.

6 – Lay your fillets on some paper towel and pat them dry.

7 – Spread out your parchment sheets. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper in the centre of each parchment sheet. 

8 – Place a surmai fillet on top of the seasoning.

9 – Spread ¼ of the butter mixture on top of each fillet. 

10 – Now arrange the julienned vegetables on top, dividing evenly among the 4 fillets. 

11 – Arrange 10-12 cherry tomato halves around the fillet. 

12 – Top each fillet with 2 lemon slices and 1 tablespoon (15 ml) white wine. 

13 – Finally Season with more salt and pepper if desired.

14 – Lift the right and left sides of the paper up and towards the center, directly above the fish. Touch the two sides together and tightly roll them, folding as you go, until you reach the fish. Holding the fold down, fold up the top and bottom ends of the packet and tuck both ends underneath the fish. The weight of the fish should hold the folded ends in place (you don’t want the packet to open as it bakes, otherwise steam will escape). Place the packet on a rimmed baking tray, Repeat with the remaining three packets. These paper packets are our papilotte. 

15 – Set the 4 papilotte on a baking tray and place it inside your preheated oven. Bake until the fillets are cooked through, about 12-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. I baked mine for 15 minutes.

16 – To serve, place the papilotte directly on a plate and let everyone open their own packets. Once open, top each fish with fresh parsley and a spritz of lemon. Now eat!

all the ingredients for the cook
all the veg prepped
flavoured butter prepped
fillets patted dry
layering the papilotte
ready to be wrapped
lifting the right and left sides of the paper up and towards the center, directly above the fish, touch the two sides together
holding the two sides, tightly roll them downwards, folding as you go
continue folding until you reach the fish
press the fold down, and then fold up the bottom end
now fold up the top end
tuck both folded ends underneath the fish, using the weight of the fish to hold the folded ends in place
place the papilotte on a rimmed baking tray and bake at 190OC for 12-15 minutes
open the papilotte and enjoy hot!

Surmai en papillote is best served hot and fresh out of the oven. Place leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. If you’ve already opened your packets, reheat the fish in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, adding a spritz of lemon juice to freshen up the flavours. You can also reheat the unopened fish packets in the microwave until warm.