Fish Fillets en Papillote

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Yield:



Appears in

Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking

Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking

By Craig Claiborne

Published 1987

  • About

As far as I know, the idea of cooking fish in paper bags originated in Louisiana. Indeed, some sources say that it was created in Antoine’s famed New Orleans restaurant in the early 1900s in honor of a well-known Brazilian balloonist named Alberto Santos-Dumont, who was served a dish en papillote because the puffed-up bag resembled a balloon.

In Louisiana, each piece of fish is packaged in a sheet of buttered paper, along with a light cream sauce and crabmeat and shrimp. While pompano is often preferred, many other kinds of fish fillets may be substituted, including weakfish, redfish, and salmon.


  • 4 boneless fillets of fish, such as pompano, weakfish, or red snapper, with skin left on (about 1 pound)
  • Salt to taste, if desired
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup Fish Stock
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion(s)
  • ½ pound fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons corn, peanut, or vegetable oil
  • 12 small to medium-size shrimp (about 6 ounces), shelled and deveined
  • ¼ pound lump crabmeat


  1. To make the bags in which the fish will be cooked, it is best to use kitchen parchment. You can use aluminum foil, however. Cut out 4 heart-shaped pieces measuring about 22 inches wide and 15 inches at the center.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Sprinkle the fish on both sides with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan and add the onion. Sprinkle with the flour and stir with a wire whisk. Add the stock, stirring rapidly with the whisk. Cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes.
  5. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan and add the scallions. Cook briefly, stirring, without browning. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they give up their liquid. Cook until the liquid is almost gone. Add the wine and cook about 5 minutes.
  6. Combine the sauce with the mushroom mixture and add the cream. Bring to the boil and cook about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the parsley.
  7. Beat the egg yolk and add it to the sauce, stirring vigorously with a wire whisk. Cook about 10 seconds and remove from the heat.
  8. Open one of the heart shapes on a flat surface. On one side, brush all over with oil. Fold one half of the heart over the other half and press down to make a crease at the center fold. Open up the heart and place 3 tablespoons of the mushroom sauce in the center of one half.
  9. Place 1 piece of fish, skin side down, on the sauce. Arrange 3 shrimp neatly on top of the fish. Arrange one-quarter of the crab over or next to the shrimp. Spoon about 4 tablespoons of the sauce over all. Fold the other half of the heart shape over at the crease. Crimp and fold the edges of the heart over and over to seal. To ensure the bond, you might use paper clips to seal the packages at the top end. Repeat until all 4 packages are filled and sealed.
  10. Arrange the packages on 1 or 2 baking sheets and place in the oven. Bake 15 minutes. Serve, if desired, in the paper bags.