If you have never done it before, cooking in parchment can seem intimidating.

However, it is an easy baking method that uses paper to wrap single-serve portions of food. The packages can be heart, rectangle or oval shaped. Lessening the last-minute hassle before dinner, they can be assembled in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

Bundled in paper, flounder with fresh mushrooms, savory shrimp and Parmesan snapper bake in 15 minutes or less in a preheated oven. The seafood packets emerge perfectly steamed, making an elegant holiday meal that your guests will enjoy unwrapping.

If you prefer a casual look, aluminum foil can be used to create the packages, as pictured in the Parmesan snapper recipe. If you are unable to find the fish recommended in the recipes, ask your seafood retailer for a good substitute. Remember to adjust your cooking time according to the thickness of the fillet.

Shrimp often are available at the retail market year-round. This time of year, they are likely to be frozen or pre-frozen. Raw shrimp are freshly frozen toward the end of the season, then thawed for retail during the winter months. Frozen shrimp retain a fresh flavor for several months.

See the sidebar by Barry Nash, North Carolina Sea Grant seafood technology and marketing specialist, for more about selecting and preparing frozen seafood.

To learn more about cooking with parchment, purchase the resource book, Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas, from Sea Grant. Contact Sandra Harris at 919-515-9101 or sandra_harris@ncsu.edu. Or check your local bookstore. Visit the Mariner’s Menu blog at marinersmenu.org for more recipes. — Vanda Lewis



Flounder with fresh mushrooms. Photo by Vanda Lewis.

• 1 1/2 pounds flounder fillets
• vegetable oil
• 6 tablespoons margarine or butter
• 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion, including tops
• 1/4 cup dry vermouth
• 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
• salt
• freshly ground white pepper

Cut fillets into serving sizes. Prepare 4 to 6 pieces of parchment. Lightly oil each piece.

In medium skillet, melt margarine over medium heat. Lightly sauté mushrooms and green onion. Add vermouth and simmer until liquid is almost gone. Add parsley.

Place fish on parchment and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place equal amount of mushroom mixture over each. Close parchment. Place on baking sheet. Bake at 400 F until puffed and lightly browned, about 12 to 15 minutes. Place on serving plates. Serves 4 to 6.


savory shrimp

Savory shrimp. Photo by Vanda Lewis.

• 1 pound medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined
• vegetable oil for parchment
• 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion, including tops
• 1/2 teaspoon pressed garlic
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
• 1/4 teaspoon savory
• 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
• 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
• 3 or 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• 3 or 4 tablespoons dry white wine

Prepare 3 or 4 pieces of parchment. Lightly oil each. Place on baking sheet.

In small saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic until tender. Remove from heat and add parsley, savory, lemon juice, crumbs and Parmesan.

Divide shrimp evenly on parchment. Sprinkle with crumb mixture. Pour 1 tablespoon wine over each. Close parchment. Bake at 400 F until shrimp are done, about 10 to 12 minutes. Place on serving plates. Serves 3 to 4.


parmesan snapper

Parmesan snapper. Photo by Vanda Lewis.

• 3 medium snapper fillets
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon pressed garlic
• vegetable oil for parchment
• 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• 1 cup toasted fresh bread crumbs

In long glass baking dish, combine oil, salt and garlic. Cut fish into 6 portions. Place in mixture and marinate for 10 minutes. Turn and marinate 10 minutes longer.

While fish is marinating, prepare 6 pieces of parchment. Lightly oil each. Place on baking sheet.

Remove fish from marinade. Roll in cheese, then in crumbs. Place each on a piece of parchment. Close parchment. Bake at 400 F until puffy and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Place on individual plates. Serves 6.

This article was published in the Holiday 2014 issue of Coastwatch.

For contact information and reprint requests, visit ncseagrant.ncsu.edu/coastwatch/contact/.