Red Snapper and Other Fillets in Packages

Makes 6 Servings
Time: 1 hour

Cooking en papillote is fun and virtually foolproof. Since all of the fish's essences are locked within the package, moistness is guaranteed. But because you can't peek into all the packages to judge doneness, I wouldn't make this with very thin fillets, which are likely to overcook. It's a fine recipe for thicker fillets such as red snapper, or catfish or sea bass; simply increase the cooking time by 4 or 5 minutes per inch of thickness.

About 1 pound waxy red or white potatoes, peeled and slices as thinly as possible (you want 24 to 36 slices)
6 red snapper fillets or other sturdier thin white fillets, 4 to 6 ounces each, scaled or skinned
2 or 3 large tomatoes, cored and cut through the equator into slices (you want 12 slices)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
24 fresh basil leaves
About 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the over to 450°F. Cut six 18-inch-squares of aluminum foil or parchment paper; then fold each in half to make a double layer. On each piece, place a thin layer of 4 to 6 potato slices, roughly the same size as the fillet; top with a piece of fish, 2 slices of tomato, salt, pepper, 4 basil leaves, and a drizzle of oil. Fold over the foil and crimp the edges to seal into packages and place them in a single layer on a large baking sheet.

Bake for about 20 minutes, turning the pan in the oven after 10 minutes to ensure even cooking. Check the fish in one package; the snapper will be white, opaque and tender when done, the tomatoes will have liquefied, and the potatoes will be cooked. Serve the packages closed, allowing each diner to open his or her own at the table.

Red Snapper or Other Fillets in Packages with Carrots and Zucchini: In Step 1, replace the potatoes with a bed of about 1/2 cup mixed julienned carrots and zucchini, sprinkled with a few drops of balsamic vinegar; top with a drizzle of olive oil, chopped fresh tarragon, and a thin slice of lemon. Step 2 remains the same.