Technique: Kyma’s Pano I. Karatassos on making fish en papillote

This easy and healthy technique involves wrapping the fillets in parchment
fish en papillote
Photograph by Patrick Heagney

Just how fresh is the fish at Kyma? It was likely still swimming in Greek waters 18 to 30 hours before it hit your plate. “We’re lucky to have that door-to-door connection, from Athens to Kyma,” says chef Pano I. Karatassos. To highlight the fish’s natural maritime flavors, he keeps seasoning to just olive oil, lemon, fresh herbs, and salt and pepper. As for preparation, one of the easiest and healthiest techniques is cooking en papillote, in which fillets are wrapped in parchment to steam in a hot oven. Stuff the parchment packets with sliced vegetables or rice for a complete meal. The trickiest part is checking for doneness, but Karatassos shares a chef’s trick that works like a charm: Poke a metal cake tester through the paper into the meatiest part of the fish. After five seconds, remove it and lightly touch it to the bottom of your lower lip. If it’s warm, it’s done. If it’s scalding, the fish is likely overcooked. (A one-inch-thick piece cooked at 400°F should take 12 to 15 minutes.)

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Cut a rectangle of parchment large enough to fold over the fish from side to side and top to bottom. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

3. Season 2 skin-on fish fillets (3 to 4 oz. each) with salt and pepper. Place one fillet, skin-side down, in the center of the parchment.

4. Top with ½ cup of pilaf and add the other fillet, skin-side up. Drizzle with more olive oil.

5. Add 1 to 2 tsp. water, white wine, or other liquid, which will create the steam.

6. Fold long sides of parchment over the fish, then fold the shorter sides over.

7. Cut a 3-foot-long piece of kitchen twine and center the package over it lengthwise. Pull the two ends together, cross in the middle, wrap it around the fish once, and tie as if you’re wrapping a present.

8. Set package on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake 12 to 15 minutes for every inch of the thickest fillet. Remove, snip string, and open parchment, being careful not to let the steam burn you. Serve with lemon wedges and extra rice pilaf, if desired.

Fresh Catch
Home cooks who want access to the same variety of high-quality fish can shop the market housed inside Kyma’s sister restaurant, the Atlanta Fish Market.

Bonus recipe: Spanokorizo (Spinach Rice)
Makes 2 to 4 servings

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup long-grain rice
½ medium Vidalia onion, finely diced
1 small bay leaf
1 cup water
8 ounces spinach, leaves rolled in tight bundles and thinly sliced (chiffonade)
1/3 cup minced fresh dill
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-low; add onion. Cook and stir onion until tender and translucent but not brown. Add rice; cook and stir until lightly toasted. Add water, bay leaf, and ½ tsp salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until water is absorbed and rice is tender. Remove bay leaf. Stir in spinach, dill, and parsley, and immediately remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper; drizzle with remaining oil. Toss rice until all spinach has wilted. Spread on parchment-lined sheet pan to cool.

Pano I. Karatassos
Illustration by Joel Kimmel

About Pano I. Karatassos
The son of the founder of Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, Karatassos trained under Michelin-starred chefs like Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Even so, his 14-year-old restaurant also takes inspiration from watching his grandmother prepare traditional Greek meals.

This article originally appeared in our January 2016 issue.