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Lake trout 3

Lake trout “en papillote”

DIARY: Fresh fish from Lake Erie.

RECIPE: Lake trout En Papillote. 

It’s not yet a wrap on my television show “Escapes with Nigel.” When we do wrap up shooting, we’ll be sure to have a splendid celebration and then my producer can call: “It’s a wrap.“

But that’s not the sort of wrap I’m writing about today. I’m talking about fish wrapped tightly in parchment paper and cooked, with finely cut vegetables piled on top of the fish and a light sauce drizzled over, so the whole lot steam in their own juices and offer up a delicious, moist and tender dish. It’s called en papillote in French.

I’ve tried cooking this way a few times with various sorts of fish, and I had in mind to offer my guests at a recent dinner party Arctic Char en papillote. At the last minute the weather turned very nasty, so I was disinclined to take the convertible out in the falling snow and trek to the St. Lawrence Market and my usual fishmongers. Instead I walked less than 10 minutes to our nearby organic Whole Foods store, where they have well stocked fish counter.

Lake trout 1

Fresh lake trout ready to wrap

No Arctic char, but an excellent fresh wild-caught lake trout was on offer. They cut six nice filets, deboned them all and wrapped them in no time. As I waited, I asked where the fish had been caught and was told Lake Erie. This was no surprise, as I knew lake trout were indigenous to the Great Lakes and range in fresh water as far north as Alaska, but in much of their range they have been over-fished or decimated by invasive species such as lampreys. However, the stocks in Lake Superior have rebounded since the 70s and are now estimated at 100 million in number.

Lake trout 2

Loading on the julienned veggies

I have a great admiration for the commercial fishermen of Lake Erie. They have awful weather to fight, alongside the powerful sport fishing lobby, which thinks they are emptying the lake of fish. In fact, they are subject to onerous quotas. The commercial fishery on the American side is now officially dead, but it thrives on the Canadian side, based in Port Dover, where years ago I was invited to the annual fish fry at the community centre. There we stuffed ourselves with deep fried yellow perch. Later we visited aboard the boats in the fleet and I was struck by their peculiar construction, with the work deck completely enclosed except for an opening to set and bring in the nets, protecting the deck hands and allowing work to continue well into the winter. These are day boats which land their catch every day, ensuring maximum freshness. The lake trout I’m preparing are fresh and never frozen, a rare treat.

One extra little trick with the wrapping process, so it looks good in the final presentation, is to use the plate (turned upside down on the paper) to trace a circle, which you then cut out.  That way you ensure the paper doesn’t hang over the edges of the plate. If you further fold the paper in half and put all the food to be baked on one half only, it make the wrapping and tucking the edges in a better tight fit.


  • Servings: 6
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by Nigel Napier-Andrews

Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 20 mins

  • 6 x 6 oz (188 g) per serving or about 1.2 kg Lake Trout or Arctic Char
  • 3/4 cup julienned leek
  • 3/4 cup julienned sweet red and orange peppers
  • 3/4 cup snow peas
  • sunflower or other sprouts for garnish (or parsley)
  • 1/4 cup (85 ml) melted butter
  • 2 tbsp grated lemon zest
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  1. Wash the fish and if not already done so at the fishmonger, cut into 6 equal fillets. Dry, wrap and set to cool in the fridge until ready to cook.
  2. Wash the leeks thoroughly and slice into long thin julienne strips; core and halve a red and orange or yellow sweet bell pepper and julienne (save the other half for another day); julienne the snow peas. Put all the julienned veggies in a bowl with ice water and cover with a cloth until ready to cook.
  3. Melt the butter, cut the rind from a whole fresh washed lemon and slice very thinly and add to the butter, add the juice of up to the whole lemon (about half and half with the butter.
  4. Now assemble: take a sheet of cooking parchment per serving, place a dry filet on the middle, add 1/6th portion of the julienned veggies on top of the fish, lay a sprig of fresh thyme on top and spoon on 1/6th portion of the butter and lemon sauce, being sure to add some zest.
  5. Wrap the food securely in a small parcel, tucking in the ends so nothing leaks out in cooking. Up to six parcels will fit on a good size baking tray.
  6. Heat the oven to 230°C/450°F and bake for 20 mins.
  7. Place a wrapped package on each plate, opening the envelope slightly to allow the steam to escape and serve with veggies.
Additional veggies should not overpower this very delicate dish. I served with steamed julienned carrots and boiled new potatoes, both tossed in a little butter.
This recipe was originally published on January 2, 2014.


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