Healthy fish and fresh veggies are lightly sauced with a garlic, herb, caper, and beer reduction in this healthy and quick Mexican Fish in Parchment! Jump to the recipe here, or read on and you’ll find it at the bottom of the post!
What do you think of when you hear the words “Mexican food?” Gooey cheese enchiladas, manteca-laden tamales, fried taquitos? Having recently moved from one border town (Las Cruces) to another (McAllen), I feel the time has come to dispel this notion of unhealthy Mexican food. I am bringing a variety of healthy Mexican-inspired dishes to my readers like Nopalitos and Red Chile Rice Bowls, Mexican Green Chile and Shrimp Pizza, and Lengua Tacos With Salsa Verde and Caramelized Onions… Mexican Fish In Parchment takes it a step further in this very low fat, high protein, and flavorful fish recipe!
Mexican food is far more varied than people think. It changes like dialects. I was brought up in Jalisco by the sea on a basic diet – tomatoes, chillis, peppers of every size and rice, which is a Mexican staple. The Pacific coast has a huge array of seafood.
~~ Gael Garcia Bernal, Mexican film actor, director, and producer
You may recall I introduced culinary parchment cooking bags in my post Mediterranean Fish In Parchment With spring Vegetables. The bags make prep and clean up so quick, and yield a moist and healthy one dish meal. For this Mexican-style preparation, I chose cousa squash (a short, squat variety of zucchini), red bell pepper, fresh corn, and jalapeños. Wild-caught rock fish have been very fresh and inexpensive at my local market, so I chose 2 generous fillets. Leftover fish isn’t tasty IMHO, so make note of the fact that unlike many of my recipes, this one serves only 2 adults! Keep in mind that the method is what is important here, and once you know how to do this, you can substitute your favorites. Cooking fish in parchment is quick, so the key is to choose accompanying ingredients with that in mind. 🙂
My fish fillets were about an inch thick, so the cooking time was only 10-12 minutes at 425°. A good rule of thumb for cooking fish in parchment (en papillote in French) is 10 minutes per inch thickness. The packet traps the steam – and all of the wonderful, fresh flavors – inside. Knowing my fish would only require 10 minutes in the oven, I opted to use the julienne attachment on my mandolin to ensure consistently thin slices. This worked really well, but you can certainly use your excellent knife skills to julienne the vegetables. 😀 My husband Mark grilled the corn for me. I love to maximize flavors in my recipes, and the caramelized bits of corn add depth to the dish. You can substitute, frozen corn or even just cut corn off the ear and add it uncooked to the packets. To provide a bit of heat to the dish, I added a couple of jalapeños, and finally, I garnished the cooked packets with a lime wedge and fresh cilantro.
The flavorful addition of a cerveza (beer), caper, and herb reduction really makes this dish. Sauté half a yellow onion, garlic, cumin, and Mexican oregano until the onion is transparent but not browned. Pour the beer into the pan, add the capers, and cook on medium-high heat until reduced to about 1/3 in volume. You only want about 2-3 tablespoons of liquid in each packet, or your fish and veggies will be boiled not steamed! After the fish and veggies are in the parchment bags, simply spoon half the sauce over the contents of each packet. Cook about 10 minutes per inch of thickness. You can check for doneness by sticking a bamboo skewer through the bag and into the fish. If you meet with any resistance, pop the pan back into the oven for a couple of minutes. See How to Fold and Cook Fish in Parchment for more information. I will eventually make my own video on this technique, as it has become one of my favorite methods for quick, healthy weeknight meals…
Mark and I were completely satisfied with just our fish packet. Should you want something more, fresh tortillas and/or green rice would be excellent alongside. We really enjoyed a crisp rosé with a bit of citrus on the finish – a perfect accompaniment to the fish. A saison or a light, citrusy pale ale (like Lagunitas Citrusensis) would be nice as well. Here’s to more healthy and flavorful Mexican cooking! Salud! (Cheers) 😀
Mexican Fish in Parchment
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic minced
- 1/2 onion finely chopped
- 1/2 cup tiny tomatoes such as cherub
- 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano leaves
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 12 ounce bottle of light beer tecate, modelo, etc.
- 2 tablespoons capers
- a sprinkle of sea salt
- several grinds pepper
- 1 squash julienned*
- 1 bell pepper julienned
- 1 ear corn kernels removed*
- 2 jalapenos*
- 2 firm white fish fillets*
- lime wedges and fresh cilantro to garnish
- * See Notes
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees (400 convection roast).
- In a medium saute pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. When it is hot (not smoking), add the onion, garlic, and tomatoes. Cook until onion is translucent - about 2 minutes - stirring occasionally.
- Add the Mexican oregano, cumin, beer, and capers. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until liquid is reduced to only about 1/3. You need about 2-3 tablespoons of liquid for each packet.
- While the beer reduces, prep the vegetables, season with a bit of sea salt and a few grinds of pepper. Toss to combine.
- Rinse and pat the fish fillets dry. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Arrange the vegetables in individual bags or packets.* Place the fish on top, and carefully spoon in half of the sauce over the fish and veggies. Seal the bag, and place on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining fish fillet and veggies.
- Cook 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of your fish. My 1" thick fillets needed only 10 minutes. When I've used thicker sea bass fillets, it required the full 15.
- You can either serve the dish in its packet or remove the contents and plate. The bottoms of the parchment will be wet, so use a large spatula to get them out of the pan and onto the plates. Carefully cut an "X" in the top. Garnish with a lime wedge and chopped cilantro.
Summer squash varieties work really well in this dish, and are very typical vegetables in Mexican cooking. Choose the freshest or your favorite variety.
I grill my corn first, but this is not a required step. Feel free to cut kernels from the cob and use raw, or use frozen. Canned is not my favorite, but it would probably be fine as well.
Any firm fish is fine including but not limited to salmon, halibut, snapper, sea bass, rock fish, cod, tilapia. Keep in mind thickness when cooking - about 10 minutes per inch thickness. Prick the bag through the fish, and it should move through easily if it's done. If it meets with any resistance, pop it back in the oven for a couple of minutes.