Sheepshead Cooked in Parchment - Easy Seasonal Cooking

This is one of my favorite cooking techniques to use at home (or, in my case, on my boat.). The beauty of this preparation, besides being versatile and forgiving, is the simplicity of preparation and cleanup: At the end of the meal you simply discard the parchment and foil and your dishes are done!

Please don’t embark on this recipe with a strict shopping list or, for that matter, even bother to break out a scale or measuring cup. This preparation is intended to be fun and spontaneous. The trick is collecting the best seasonal fish and vegetables and seasoning them to your taste; the variations are only limited by your imagination. If you want a Mediterranean inflection use things like sea salt, fennel, olive oil, lemon, basil and olives. For a more Japanese flair, try cold-pressed sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and lime.

I always keep an eye out for sheepshead at the local fish market here in Santa Barbara (California). While the Pacific and Atlantic sheepshead are not technically related, they both enjoy a diet of predominately shellfish, giving their meat a sweet complexity and supple texture. This recipe works well with a variety of fish!

The recipe below is intended for two people. As a general rule I would plan on six to eight ounces of cleaned fish filet per person.

By / Photography By John Cox | January 06, 2018

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces sheepshead filets (scaled skin)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ small delicata squash, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small purple cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 3 small carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 serrano pepper, finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 6 large shrimp
  • 2 ounces butter

Preparation

Season the fish with kosher salt. Rub salt into the filet with your hands to make sure it adheres.

Place a large sheet of foil down on the counter. This piece of foil should be 24 inches square, and you may need to use 2 sheets to get this area.

Lay a piece of parchment down the middle of the foil. The parchment should cover approximately 75% of the foil, but this is not a science.

Place the vegetables and the shrimp on the middle of the parchment sheet.

Season the vegetables with the ginger, garlic, sesame oil, lime juice and soy sauce. Mix well with your hands. Taste a small piece of carrot to make sure the seasoning is to your liking and adjust to your taste.

Place the fish filet on top of the vegetables. Crumble the butter on top of the fish.

Begin folding in the sides of the foil and parchment to make a canoe shape. The important thing here is to make sure the bottom is sealed to retain the juices and that the top is sealed well enough to keep in the steam.

Crimp the edges of the foil all around the packet.

Place the packet directly on to a grill and close the lid. Try to keep the temperature inside the grill between 350° and 400°F.

Once you can smell the steam coming out of the packet and begin to hear condensation dripping onto the coals your fish is getting close to being cooked! Wait a couple of minutes and carefully open the very top of the packet, checking to make sure the fish is white and flaky to a gentle touch.

Place the entire packet on a cutting board or tray and open at the table so guests can enjoy the aromatics.

Note: Chef John Cox lives in Santa Barbara (on a boat in the harbor) and used California Sheepshead for this recipe. Gulf Sheepshead looks different but the preparation is the same.

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces sheepshead filets (scaled skin)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ small delicata squash, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small purple cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 3 small carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 serrano pepper, finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 6 large shrimp
  • 2 ounces butter
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