Mediterranean Sea Bass in Parchment

Branzino al Cartoccio

During the past 6 months, I’ve discovered not just an Italian market with an extensive fish counter but 2 fish mongers, as well. Their impact upon my diet has been incredible and I’ve enjoyed a far greater variety of seafood than ever before.  I’ve not seen some — whiting (merluzzo), eels (anguille), octopus (polipo) — since I was a boy. Others — clams (vongole), squid (calamari), red snapper, and the like — may have been more readily available but the fish and calamari were often frozen and finding clams was a hit-or-miss affair. So, suddenly having 3 sources for fresh (affordable) seafood is mind-boggling and I’ve taken full advantage of them. Mediterranean sea bass (branzino) is a case in point.

Up until I found the Italian market, branzino was something I only saw on the menus of restaurants. My usual sources for seafood certainly weren’t going to carry it, although I suppose I may have been able to order one. You can imagine my surprise when I looked at the market’s fish counter one day and saw no less than a dozen fresh branzini on display. I just could not pass them by — even though I was leaving for Michigan the next morning. I bought one, packed it in ice overnight, repacked it in ice in my cooler for the trip, and we arrived in Michigan, fresh as daisies, the next afternoon. After a quick run to a grocery, I fixed today’s recipe for Zia that night.  Unfortunately, the pictures from that dinner were too dark to be used in a post, so, I was forced to prepare the dish again here at home. I know. The sacrifices we bloggers must endure.

By now, you’ve probably surmised that al cartoccio is Italian for “in parchment.” For this dish, because of its length, I used 2 sheets of parchment paper to enclose the fish. With a smaller branzino, you may be able to use a single large sheet, folded in half.  Although this is a recreation of our meal that night, it’s not exactly what I had planned for us. True to form, I forgot to bring a few ingredients with me and her area’s markets did not have them in supply. The fish was nonetheless delicious but, if you’re interested, the “Mediterranean style” mentioned in Variations below is what I had originally intended for that evening.  No matter how you decide to prepare your fish, be sure to set aside a few of the diced vegetables and chopped herbs to be used as garnish before serving. They’ll add both texture and freshness to the dish.

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Branzino al Cartoccio Recipe


  • 1 branzino, cleaned, scaled, fins trimmed and, if desired,  head and tail attached
  • 1 fennel bulb thinly sliced
  • thinly sliced lemon
  • diced yellow bell pepper
  • diced, cored, & seeded tomato
  • chopped scallions
  • a couple stems of fresh basil
  • 1 or 2 rosemary branches
  • a few parsley stems
  • white wine
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 sheets of parchment paper
  • additional diced vegetables with hand-torn basil & parsley for garnish

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Oven Ready

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  1. Pre-heat oven to 400˚F (204˚C).
  2. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on a large baking sheet.
  3. Place the sliced fennel in a straight line, forming a bed for the fish.
  4. Use a sharp knife to score both sides of the fish. Do not cut through the backbone. Depending upon its length, 3 or 4 parallel cuts should be made into each side of the fish. Season the fish, inside and out, with salt & pepper.
  5. Lay the fish on top of the fennel bed. Stuff the cavity with a loose bundle made with all the herbs.
  6. Cover the top of the fish, from gill to tail, with lemon slices and cover them with the chopped vegetables.
  7. Sprinkle a little wine across the entire fish and then repeat with olive oil.
  8. Cover the baking sheet with another sheet of equally sized parchment paper.
  9. Beginning on one side, grab the edges of both sheets of paper, fold them twice together, and use a stapler to permanently attach them to each other.
  10. Repeat Step 9 on the remaining 3 sides, creating a sealed pouch for the fish.
  11. Lightly brush the pouch’s top with olive oil before placing the pouch and baking sheet in the pre-heated oven.
  12. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, depending upon the thickness of the fish. See Notes below.
  13. Slide the pouch on to a serving platter and bring to the table. Pierce the top but be careful of the steam’s release. Peel back the paper to reveal your main course and serve, garnished with the reserved diced vegetables and chopped herbs.

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If you prefer a more Mediterranean style, add some chopped olives to the vegetables, add some fresh oregano to the herbs within the cavity, and use a little dried oregano to season the chopped vegetables. Oregano is a strong-tasting herb. Be careful not to use too much. Feel like something from South of the  (US) Border? Swap cilantro for the parsley, add a little chopped jalapeño to the vegetables, and maybe a pinch or two of cumin. And no matter style you follow, you can’t go wrong with capers — unless you forget to add them like I did when I prepared this fish.

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The cooking times may vary depending upon the size and thickness of the whole fish or even the fillets, if used. Though the pouch will protect your fish from drying out to a point, you don’t want to let it cook too long. A good rule of thumb for this or any fish roasted in parchment is to listen for the sizzle coming from inside the pouch. Most whole fish will be finished cooking from 7 to 9 minutes from that point; fillets will be finished in about 5 minutes.

You may have noticed that I used staples instead of a series of folds to seal the parchment ends. Once I saw Alton Brown do this, I abandoned the origami method of sealing the pouches. This is so much easier and reliable, especially when preparing a fish large enough to require 2 sheets of parchment paper.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

I’m just finishing up with this year’s canning, preserving, and pickling. One family favorite that I shared last year is the recipe for Zia’s Corn Relish. It’s a simple pickle, actually, and results in a great little condiment to serve with virtually any protein. It’s a little bit o’ sunshine on your dinner plate and who wouldn’t like that in the cold months ahead? Now, don’t worry if the “good” fresh corn is no longer available. Frozen corn can easily be used to make this relish and you can see the recipe by clicking HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …


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125 thoughts on “Mediterranean Sea Bass in Parchment

  1. I AM peagreen with envy! Oh, meant in a very nice way and wishing I was a genie who could transport herself to be an unwanted guest at one of your fish meals!! Here no fresh octopus [well, rarely!], squid, eel [love :) !] or clams and fish usually frozen or doubtful!! And yours truly at a stage in life I could happily prep and eat the same 3-4x/week! So, next time > fishmarket 100km away, guess what :) !

    • You certainly do understand how great it is to suddenly have 3 sources for good, fresh fish. Living 1000 miles from the nearest coast, most of our seafood is frozen or previously frozen. It is such a treat to ask for a particular fish and watch the monger clean and gut it — especially when that fish came from the Mediterranean, like today’s branzino. I’m in heaven, Eha!

  2. Yumm…the fish looks good. I got my first banana peppers from my winter garden yesterday. We admired them for a while first before tasting them. The corn relish was something I enjoyed making. Thanks for sharing.

    • It’s always such a treat to pick the season’s first fruits or vegetables, isn’t it? Sounds like your Winter garden is off and running. Up here, the only thing our Winter gardens are good for is snow — and we are hoping that the first crops don’t arrive for quite some time. :)

  3. Yum! This is one of my favorite ways of oreparing fish, although I mostly use aluminum foil rather than parchment paper. Do you know of any marked difference? With aluminum I use a 225C/440F oven and I think it’s easier to handle. Had not thought of using a stapler though, great idea!
    I love the veggies you use. Very good idea to use fennel to prevent overcooking the side of the fish that’s on the baking sheet.
    This recipe is also great with orata/sea bream.

    Fish names are often mixed up. Merluzzo is what I know as hake?

    Congratulations on finding such good sources for fresh fish! During my trip in the US I was suffering from seafood withdrawal.

    • I, too, really enjoy preparing fish this way, especially when entertaining. It is about as fool-proof as fish can be. I’ll use foil when cooking the fish on the grill but never in the oven. Using staples to seal the pouch makes it so much easier. It’s the type of thing that, when I saw it, I couldn’t help but wonder why I hadn’t thought of it before. Such a simple idea.
      When I bought merluzzo, I asked him what it was, He, an Italian, said it was whiting. I’ve since looked it up, as well as hake, they are both members of the cod and haddock family of fishes, though the name whiting is applied to a few fish. My guess is that there’s some overlap & misidentification at play.
      Where you toured, out West but East of the Rockies, isn’t the best locale to find good seafood. Like here, most of it is frozen and then shipped. Your best bet to have found anything fresh would have been in a major city, like Denver, but the cost would have been quite high. :(

  4. Congratulations on finding sea bass! It looks wonderful. It’s one of Lo Jardinièr’s favourite fish and we’re lucky enough to be able to buy it easily here – haven’t cooked it in parchment before so we’ll have to try that. Reading StefanGourmet’s comment above, I think the problem with aluminium foil is that acid in the lemon juice can make holes in it – not dangerous, but it doesn’t look very pretty! And, yes, I think merluzzo is hake – in Spanish it’s merluza.

    • Thank you. I’ve been cutting down on the amount of red meat in my diet and finding these fish mongers could not have come at a better time. Cooking in parchment is rapidly becoming my favorite way of preparing many fish. As I mentioned to Stefan, it is almost fool-proof. If you do prepare branzino this way, I hope you’ll share you recipe. You’re such a good cook and I’d be very interested in learning how you’d prepare it.
      From one I’ve read, both whiting and hake are members of the cod family. Hake is, I believe, merluzzo. The thing is, whiting is a name applied to a few fish. I think this is where the “confusion” comes into play.

    • Thanks, Roger, and I so agree with you about preparing fish this way. It couldn’t be easier and, unless you forget about it, this is an almost fool-proof method.

  5. You have certainly brought some of my childhood memories to light today! Going to the fish market for Friday fish was a weekly visit. And reading your post brought back all those wonderful memories that you take for granted growing up. They seemed like a chore but now seem so beautiful. Now back to your gorgeous sea bass.I love every single ingredient on top. The bass looks so delicious! And the inside looks tender. Love the pictures!!

    • Thanks, Judy. This is such a great way to prepare fish. The grey skin of this bass really does photograph well, especially against the vegetables.
      We did take so much for granted. i cannot believe that with all of the pasta my Mom and Zia made — at least once a week for each family — there isn’t one photo or movie of the process. Not a one! Talk about taking something for granted. :)

  6. John, the photo of the oven-ready fish looks so pretty. I love the method of cooking in parchment paper because it allows the food to retain all the flavours which are intensified. This must have had incredible flavour xx

    • Thank you, Charlie. This is a great way to prepare fish and almost fool-proof. When entertaining, a large fish is impressive to “tear open” but so are individual pouches set before each guest. You really cannot go wrong.

  7. This looks wonderful. Love the technique and the staple tip. (duh!) How nice to have multiple choices for fresh fish! bright clean flavors. Simply healthy!

    • Thanks, Marie. You’re asking for a lot. Our countrymen don’t like being served anything with its head — and eyes — intact. If only they would avoid buying the item altogether, the prices might go down. :)

    • Wow, Greg. Being 1000 miles from the nearest coast, it’s not often that we here in Chicago are the subject of any kind of envy with regards to seafood. I won’t let it go to my head, though. If past history is a guide, now that I’ve written about my good fortune, they’ll start closing down.

  8. I am beyond impressed by your ability to endure branzino TWICE for the sake of blogging. You are a hero. ;-)

    How great to have such sources of fresh seafood. I wish we had something similar in KS but there things are definitely more meat-oriented

    Gotta dance wifh the music and you do so beautifully! ;-)

    • Thank you, Sally, but I’m not a hero … martyr, maybe but not a hero. ;)
      And, yes, KS is definitely more a beef state than seafood. If I lived anywhere else in the Mid-west, I don’t think I’d have one, let alone 3, fishmongers in the area. Chicago remains my kind of town. :)

  9. I love fish and don’t eat it nearly enough! I am truly envious of all the markets you have at your disposal! My fish comes from the grocery case and I always wonder just how fresh it is. But if i find sea bass, I will buy it and make this for my family! Love how you wrapped it in parchment with the lemon. Bet the flavors are incredible! Love that relish too!!!! Do you take mail orders?

    • I know exactly what you mean, Tanya. Until very recently, I relied upon my grocers for my seafood and most was frozen. From that I’ve suddenly gone to having 3 fish mongers to visit. It really is a dream come true.
      You may wish to check with the fish dept of your local grocery. Mine would accept an order for, say, sea bass, if I had a special dinner planned. Perhaps yours will, too.

    • Thanks, Teri. You should try to bake a fish in parchment. It is very easy to do an, once you’ve done it, you’ll wonder why you haven’t tried it before. It really is that simple.

  10. John, my other half loves sea bass, particularly whole and stuffed. He would love this recipe. Unfortunately, we would have to pick up the fish in the Bay Area as they are not easy to come by up here in the north woods. I could eat fish every day so will tuck this away until I find myself a sea bass. Corn relish, yum. My grandmother was the canner and preserver in our family and this was one of my favorites. Love the way you’ve put the tomato and basil on the crostini. Will have to make that over the holidays.

    • You know, Susie, for most of us living so far from a coast, we tend to think that all seafood is abundant all along the coastline. You remind me that isn’t the case at all. I guess I should be thankful for my newfound wealth and take full advantage of it for as long as I can. I hope you can find some sea bass for your Husband. I’m sure he’d like this dish.
      Mom and Zia did a great deal of canning/preserving when I was young but that grew less and less over the years. I’m the only one doing it now and I give much of it away, making sure Zia gets her share. It’s payback time. :)
      Crostini will be part of a follow-up to the recent mozzarella post. If anyone makes mozzarella, they may need some ideas for using it up. Well, other than just eating it like I do. :)

  11. The first time I saw branzino on a restaurant menu I had to ask what it is.
    Glad to see you use the whole fish (head and tail still attached) and present it whole at the table. My mouth is watering looking at the dish so better move on before my keyboard gets soaked..

    • Too funny, Norma! Did you try the branzino that night? It really is a tasty fish. If you can find some, this is a very easy and almost fool-proof method of cooking it. I hope you give it a try.

      • No, I did not try the branzino because on the menu was also a beer marinated grilled pork chop that I wanted to try (there was no room for 2 entrees, in my younger days this would not have been a problem).

  12. A beautiful healthy parchment branzino fish. I can’t believe it… so I am just going to go out on a limb and ask… I noticed there was not any garlic in your dish. I know with all of the other gorgeous flavors in this dish none is needed but this might be the first dish you and I have made without garlic well of course except for our desserts, but maybe even those may not be entirely free of our all but loved spice…Have a great day. Take care, BAM

    • Thank you, Bam, and nice catch about the garlic. I heistate to use it when I’m cooking fish in a parchment pouch. The fish cooks quickly and I fear that the garlic won’t be cooked thoroughly. For my tastes, a raw garlic flavor would overpower everything. It’s the same reason that I caution anyone from using too much oregano in a variation I mentioned. Like so much about Italian cooking, it’s all about balance.

      • I ended up having peanut butter toast for dinner…busy day and no husband home to feed. Ha! I’ve made fish in parchment before. I love how it steams everything and makes it so tender! I will definitely be making it sometime this week. Have to start getting rid of the freezer food! :)

  13. I have read about cooking in parchment but have never tried it and you have made it look so easy with your sensible intructions but you can imagine the woeful fish sources we have down here.. however when I go home almost every place i visit will be close to the sea, this will be wonderful.. i can make this for my sons …what a gift, thank you darling.. c

    • My pleasure, Celi. This dish is as easy to prepare as you read. It is practically fool-proof — so long as the parchment is fully sealed and doesn’t catch fire. :)
      I’m pleased to read that you’ll be making this for your sons during your visit home. Add a platter of spaghetti agio e olio, a salad, a loaf of bread, and some wine and you’ll be eating like we Bartolini did just about every Friday of my youth. :)

  14. That idea of using staples is brilliant. As is this whole dish – such nice, nice flavor. Isn’t it great having easy access to good markets? One of the many advantages of living in an urban area (there are disadvantages, too, of course). Just a fun post. It’s not going to happen today or tomorrow, but one of these days I really need to go read your entire blog from the beginning. I discovered you only this year, so there’s a lot I missed, and everything you do is really good stuff. Like this post. ;-) Thanks.

    • Thank you so much, John, for your kind words — as always. I almost missed the staple thing that afternoon. I was in another room when the phone rang where the TV was on. While I was talking, I muted the set but watched as Alton Brown stapled his parchment pouch shut. To this day, I don’t know what he cooked but his staple idea is a keeper!
      Now that I’ve finally caught up after the DSL debacle, I’m hoping to find time to get better acquainted with some of the newer blogs I’m following, Yours is certainly among them. I know I’ve certainly enjoyed the posts I’ve read thus far.

  15. It’s healthy, it’s gorgeous, it must have a divine aroma, even as it bakes and the presentation is incredible! What a wonderful fish dish. To be honest, as soon as I saw the fennel in the photo I was sold. I have yet to savour Branzino but this might be the year of new tastes since we thoroughly enjoyed the Monkfish while in Lyon.
    Your canning looks wonderful, so diligent to do it every fall. And that crostini, John I am starving rifght now (12pm my time) and I am trying to convince myself to go work out and pass on the work out and eat lunch instead.

    • Thank you, Eva. You’re always so encouraging. Fennel really works great here. None of the flavors are strong and they all work together really well. There’s always a nice “blast” when the parchment is opened. That’s why I like to serve individual pouches when I have a small group for dinner.
      I think I over-did the canning this year, to be honest. My dining room looks like a general store. Last weekend’s ketchup was the very last thing I do. Well, except for some mustard. I need some mustard.
      This isn’t going to end, is it?

  16. P.S. Italian Wikipedia says: “Merluzzo è un termine abbastanza generico usato per indicare diverse specie di pesci”. The varieties listed are cod and hake (nasello). European whiting is merlano or molo. I don’t think there’s an Italian name for Pacific whiting.

    • I wrote earlier that whiting and hake are both members of the cod family and that whiting is a term used for a few different fish. There’s probably some overlapping and that may be where the confusion lies. The fishmongers, an Italian and a Latino, both called the merluzzo whiting. I call it delicious and have a post coming up shortly. :)

        • Not just recreating the dish but trying to order it in a restaurant. Few servers know enough to be able to explain what the fish is called on the other side of The Pond. We need a smartphone app to do the “translation.” :)

  17. My enjoyment of fish is tied very closely to presentation. This is beautifully prepared and served. Staples is a wonderful addition. I don’t think those little origami folds are very practical unless you’re really skilled…I am not! Isn’t it nice to have developed such a relationship with your fish mongers. They must love knowing that you take such care with their offerings! I’d like a bite of that crostini right now! Again, presentation! :-)

    • Thank you, Debra. Seeing staples used to seal a parchment pouch was truly heaven sent. I am all thumbs and you should have seen the monstrosities I created when I tried to seal pouches with folds. Too funny, actually.
      It is really nice getting to know these men behind the fish counters. Last week, one gave me a great idea for a lemon-caper sauce — recipe forthcoming. They certainly know their fish and I’m taking full advantage of the situation — and loving every mouthful! :)

  18. Liz and I our thoroughly enjoying living back on the east coast and having fresh fish available to use again. Needless to say, our diets have improve greatly. But I must say that we are a little jealous of your mongers and the selection available to you. Must be wonderful, as I know this dish must have been.

    PS-I just had some horrendous mozzarella which indicates to me that it’s time to try out your recipe. I’ll keep you informed.

    • Finding these fish mongers has been a real gift. I’ve been trying to incorporate more fish into my diet but the selection always left something to be desired. Now, though, I’ve a great variety and, when all else fails, there are sure to be clams to make pasta con vongole. Pinch me. I’m dreaming! :)
      Good luck with the mozzarella. I’ll be here if you’ve any questions.

  19. Good timing, the weather is warming up here and I have found a new fishmonger. I love fish, and happily come from a fish catching, cooking, eating family so my nose knows exactly when it’s cooked… so uncannily accurate I amaze myself. I’ll be puting this on the menu :)

    • With your background, EllaDee, you must have some wonderful recipes for cooking fish. Do you think you’ll be sharing any? I certainly would be interested in learning a few new ones. Remember, though, that I haven’t got your nose. :)
      If you make this one, I hope you enjoy it.

      • My cooking is very plain. We tossed fish in flour in and cooked in butter in a frypan, over the fire when camping mmmm, or baked in foil. Now, mostly I just put fish naked with maybe a splash of olive oil or a sprinkle of ginger powder, sugar, sea salt or white pepper in a hot oven or on the bbq… Next time, I’ll try to take a photo and post about it trying to keep a track of measurements, cooking times, etc, why not… I love yours :)

        • I, too, like to flour fillets and pan fry them in butter — and there’s not a campfire within miles. You may feel your methods are simple, EllaDee, but I’ve never seen ginger powder or sugar used when grilling or baking fish. I hope you do share the recipe one day with us. I’m very interested. Besides, I love to bring new recipes, especially for fish, to Zia when I visit. She’ll get a kcik learning it came form a fellow bogger and talented writer living Down Under. And then, of course, I’ll show her your blog and you two can get better acquainted. :)

  20. Lucky, lucky you to find an Italian market…and fabulous fish mongers!! I soo miss mine. I’ve asked all around here and no one is aware of any. This is truly grounds to move back!!! All I can do now is stare at your photo and dream. My last sea bass was from my old market. I love all your variation tips; that’s the fun and creativity of cooking that I enjoy so much!

    • Thanks, Linda. The best thing about finding these fish mongers is that they sell fresh, and not previously frozen, fish. It makes such a difference!
      I must say I’m surprised that Atlanta hasn’t any fishmongers. You’re much closer to the coast than we are and I would think you’d have better supplies. Shows what I know, eh? This would be one hard adjustment for you, coming from an area where seafood was so plentiful. I hope it’s just a question of getting your bearings and then you’ll find a fishmonger. Fingers crossed.

  21. THIS is what I’ve been waiting for John! I don’t know that I can find the whole Branzino, but I can find fillets I’m quite sure. I’ll look for those this weekend at my favorite fishmonger. Love the fennel and the vegetables and the combination of herbs with this…(who am I kidding, I love it ALL.) Thanks so much for this one! I’ll get back to you! :)

    • Glad to be of service, Spree! I hope you can find a whole branzino. It makes such a great presentation. If you can only find fillets, you may wish to consider making individual pouches for your dinner mates — if they’ll all fit in your oven. It’s all about the presentation!
      I hope you make and enjoy this dish as much as i do. :)

  22. You lucky dog! Oh, wait, that’s Max. Well I’m quite envious of your 3 fishmongers, as like Linda—since we’re in the same city—we just don’t have a lot of fresh fish here. It’s kind of ridiculous…but I digress. I feel so bad for you (not) that you had to make this incredible fish dish twice…I do that a lot because sometimes I’m so hungry I forget to take a photo! ;) The fish is beautiful and now I am really craving a nice fish…and parchment is one of my favorite ways to cook it. Lovely, John!

    • Hello, Betsy. I must admit that you and Linda have surprised me when you tell of few fishmongers Atlanta. I (foolishly) assumed that living in a large city nearer to the coast than we are would surely have a good supply of seafood. Wrong again, eh?
      Yes, it was a terrible turn of events that caused me to prepare this dish twice. I don’t know how I survived the ordeal. Perhaps Neptune aided me? With or without his help, this is a great way to prepare a fish and I do it regularly. I’m glad you enjoyed the post today, Betsy, and thanks for your comments. :)

  23. Fresh fish and what a selection you have. We are fortunate to have fishmongers in our Strip District but I don’t get there on a regular schedule.
    Your photos are always enticing, John, and I especially like to see the ingredients at the ready. Of course, this is another item I have not attempted but you sure make it all seem possible the way you write, breaking it down for the layman.
    Glad you are back online in full swing these days. My readers missed your excellent comments while you were offline.

    • Hello, Ruth. This has really been quite a turn of events. Last year I relied on the grocery stores for my seafood and, frankly, didn’t buy it very often. Now, I’ve got 3 fishmongers and a great selection of fresh, never frozen, fish. And a few are fish that I’ve not seen in decades. It really is amazing.
      Cooking a fish, either whole or fillet, in parchment is really as easy to do as I’ve described. And the results are quite good. You can easily do this, Ruth. No doubt about it.
      It is good to be back, too. For such a relatively new piece of technology, it sure has woven itself into our lives. I was lost without it.

  24. This recipe is helpful. I have been looking for Mediterranean recipes because it is said that it is great for getting rid of acne (?). Thanks for sharing!

  25. I have a fresh fish monger in British Columbia.. but the one here in Calgary seems to have gone downhill, sadly! Are all sea bass Mediterranean/Branzino, because I would love to try this dish. I’ve never seen that one on a menu either. It seems so very tender one, perfect for your parchment packets. I love how you have different variations as well.. I think I would try the Mediterranean one first, since I adore olives. How awesome is it to use a stapler?! And your “sizzle” for timing is a tip I’m going to file in my memory, it’s so useful! I’m so very glad you had to remake this one for us.. the colors are so pretty and happy.. as is the corn relish, that they cheered me up considerably!!

    • Hi, Barb, I hope you’re feeling better.
      Branzino is one of a few types of bass. Chilean sea bass, wild caught, is to be avoided now because of over fishing. Barramundi, also called Asian sea bass, is good to eat if it’s farm raised in the US or Australia. Black sea bass from the Atlantic is still safe to purchase.
      I have an app called Seafood Watch that you can load onto your smartphone or tablet. It is meant to help one select sustainable fish, whether in a restaurant or fishmonger. It, also, provides alternatives to a fish you may be looking for, like it did just now for me.
      When preparing a fish in parchment, I try to incorporate bright colors. When the pouch is opened and the blast of steam clears, it really does look great to see your main course so colorfully dressed.
      Now, get better! Too bad I can’t send you some soup.

        • That app sure was an eye opener for me. Luckily, my primary fishmonger prides themselves in stocking only sustainable seafood. One less thing to worry about.
          Our warm weather ends in a few hours. I’ll have a pot of soup on the stove by 10:00 am tomorrow. Let the cold winds blow …

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  29. I’ve been wanting to cook fish in parchment for a long time now, but just haven’t done it. Maybe it’s because we can’t get decent fish in New Mexico and we certainly don’t have fish mongers. :) I’m so jealous! I’ve never seen a whole sea bass, just the precut fillets. Your picture of the prepped fish with all of the veggies is lovely and really makes me want to move back near water. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to enjoy my fish through you. I wouldn’t love to make this!

    • Believe me. I’m thanking my lucky stars for these fish markets. This is a first for me and I’m taking full advantage. We will never have the selection — and prices — of either coast’s seafood, but this is certainly good enough for me. As it is, I’ve already 3 more fish posts in the making. Life is good! :)

  30. You always tantalize me with your coming soon photos! This one especially! Your fish looks incredible. I’m always afraid to buy whole fish because I have no idea how to cut it for serving. It seems intimidating. And how clever is that Alton Brown! Staples…genius.

    • Thanks, Kristy. I, too,fear serving some whole fish. This one, though, is a snap. Before heaping on the lemon and veggies, I suggested cutting into the fish’s flesh on each side. That, in effect, creates 4 servings. When the fish is finished cooking, use a sharp knife to cut the fish from top to bottom along those same slash marks. Cut only to the spine. Then cut a line along the entire top of the fish. You should be able to slide a turner through the fish’s top and use the spine to guide the bottom of the turner, lifting as you go. You should be able to lift the entire portion. Repeat with the 2nd portion on the top. Remove the spine and serve the remaining 2 portions that were on the bottom.
      I know it sounds complicated but it really isn’t, at least for this fish. You’ll be surprised — and relieved — at how easy it is.
      And, I’m not much of an Alton Brown fan but he sure got this one right. Staples. Who knew? :)

      • LOL. He’s had a few other tricks I’ve picked up as well. ;) Of course I can’t recall them now. Thanks for detailing the process. It does still sounds complicated, but I’m going to have to give it a shot because it just looks too good not to! And if it’s easy…why not just get over my fear! Thanks!

    • Thanks for commenting. Did someone save your Grandmother’s recipe? If so, you should post it. I’d love to see it. My Zia doesn’t do much canning these days and, so, I took over the corn relish for her. It is good, isn’t it? I love breaking out a jar in the dead of Winter. By that time, I’m usually dying for some reminder of Summer. A little corn relish on the plate works. I hope you get a chance to prepare this fish for your Husband and he enjoys it as much as you think he will. :)

    • Thanks for commenting. I’ve a post coming up with salmon served with dill sauce. This one, though, is such an easy way to cook fish. Try it and I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

  31. Pingback: Mediterranean Sea Bass in Parchment - Branzino (Spigola) al Cartoccio | Adventure World |

  32. Hi, John. Love the technique and the staples. In fact, what’s not to like about this dish? Beautiful colors and nice flavor profile coupled with solid technique. I imagine the bronzino was absolutely delicious. I cannot believe you found a place that carries it. I don’t think I have ever seen it here in DFW.

    • Thanks, Richard for always being so complimentary…
      Staples! Why didn’t we think of that? Granted, they may not make as pretty a presentation as the origami-like folded parchment but it is so much easier to do and who will notice once the pouch is pierced and the steam rises? Besides, I’ve had too many occasions where that final fold of the paper didn’t hold like it should.
      I admit to being shocked when I first saw the branzino. Since then, that market has had it, fresh, about 2/3 of the time. Considering that for years now I’ve been limited to my grocer’s fish counter, being able to go to any one of 3 fishmongers for fresh fish is a real treat and I’m taking full advantage.

  33. Fabulous John – both the meal and the news that you have good fishmongers! I was chatting with friends the other week and they have a new fishmonger who opened up in thei rtown, such good news to here that more people are wanting fresh fish! Well you know I’m a bit biaised on that one :)
    And Sea Bass is a favourite of mine too, and fennel, yes please!! We had Whiting on holiday – so delicate, I used some Thai style flavours – light and beautiful and quickly pan fried. YUM !!
    And what a great tip about stapling the paper, I’ve done many a battle with paper, neve rpretty looking!!!

    • Thanks, Claire. Finding these fishmongers and getting to know them has been a real boon to my diet. Having access to fresh anything is always preferable, especially when it comes to seafood. I’m really enjoying this!
      And why didn’t one of us think of using staples? I can’t fold a letter properly so you can well imagine what my parchment pouches look like. Well, not anymore! :)

  34. This looks fantastic. Cooking fish in parchment or “oil-paper” as they call it here, is quite common in Greece as well. It’s such a healthy way to do it, as you’re actually steaming it! You’ve reminded me to add fish to this week’s meal plan :)

    • Welcome, Amanda! Cooking this type of bass is particularly good in a parchment pouch. I hope you can try it sometime. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment.

  35. Wow, John, that’s a beautiful dish! I wish we had a fishmonger nearby. :( I’d love to give this a shot. Hubby would REALLY love for me to give this a shot. Sea bass is his most favorite thing to order when we go out.

    Well done, sir. :) Happy Wednesday to you!

    • And a good Wednesday to you, to, Sarah!
      This is a great recipe and the technique can be used for just about any fish. In reality, the fish is steamed in the pouch so there’s little fear of it drying out. Give it a try with your favorite fish fillet. You won’t be disappointed.

      • Okay, deal. I’ll see what we can find around here…or maybe Madison is the place to go find some good fish? We’ll see. Hubby is craving this today, lol. He’s now lurking your blog, John. Just a heads up, haha!

  36. Pingback: …men are equal before fish | elladee_words

  37. Phew – it took me ages to get down here and leave a´re a popular man! You know I adore food like this but it´s been a while since I cooked in parchment instead of the grill and htis would be perfect for the set up I have right now int he UK. Thanks for reminding me…yours looks so beautiful!

    • Thank you, Tanya. I would think that this method would be perfect for you. With so much going on, you need an easy dish to prepare. This cooks quickly and easily with little chance of it going wrong — unless you forget about it in the oven. And with your supply of fresh fish and knack for seasoning and spices, I bet yours would be fantastic!

  38. Pingback: Eel in the Style of Le Marche — Anguille alla Marchigiana | from the Bartolini kitchens

  39. Pingback: Jumping Beans – Main Course Basket « Eat, Play, Love

  40. So great to see your recipe, it reminded me when my Mother, Dad and I lived on the Italian Riviera! We enjoyed this dish at Harry’s Bar in Nervi and Nino’s of Genova. My Mother and Dad used to prepare this at home in Santa Margherita Ligure too and it was always really delicious! Thanks for posting. I’ve retrieved their recipe after seeing yours! Buon appetito a tutti!

    • I’m so glad that this post brought back such nice memories for you, Joey. Food can be so evocative that way. How wonderful to have lived on the Riviera like that. I doubt any of you wanted to leave. I surely wouldn’t have.
      Thanks for the visit and taking the time to comment.

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