Cod and Couscous En Papillote

Fish and Couscous En Papillote

Since there was no school on Sundays, my sister and I decided that meant we could sleep in. Our mother did not agree, and we woke every Sunday to the sound of her insistent knocking on the door of our bedroom, as she hurried us to awake and get ready for church.

We would sleepily nudge each other to get up and get bathed first so that the other would have a few more cozy minutes, buried under the covers. Usually this meant we were almost always late, arriving at church bleary eyed and grumpy as we went through the motions, waiting for the service to end so we could get to our Sunday feast and favorite TV shows.

How things have changed! Today, going to Sunday Mass with my little family is one of the highlights of my week and I am always, like my mom, the first one to be dressed and ready, urging T and the  toddler to hurry so we won't miss a bit of the service. Mostly because today as an adult, I understand the significance of the symbols, the meanings behind the motions. Over the years, life's many ups and downs, God has drawn me closer to Him and I hope, He draws me closer still. 

Marin Headlands
Marin Headlands
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge- from the beautiful Marin Headlands
In our busy, sometimes unrelentingly demanding week, the peaceful church is a serene, soothing retreat. Joyous hymns raise my spirits and strengthen me ( this one and this are two favorites) I smile when the toddler loudly joins in- the fact that he doesn't know too much of the words doesn't deter him in the least. He usually just makes up his own! The sermon fills my heart and inspires me to be a better person and rise above my flaws, feelings of in-adequacy and petty anxieties. I am reminded of God's enduring, unconditional love for me and my fellow human beings. I leave feeling rejuvenated with a song on my lips and a feeling of contentment in my heart. After mass, the world is more beautiful. 

Marin Headlands

Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of a solemn time when we count down to Easter and the death and Resurrection of Jesus. It is a time of prayer, reflection, and many fast and abstain from things they usually enjoy, during this forty day period before the celebration of Easter. 

Marin Headlands

Marin Headlands

Marin Headlands

Like last year, I plan to give up or at least reduce my consumption of my biggest weakness-sweets.
Unfortunately, since it also happens to be Valentine's day tomorrow, I am surrounded by decadent chocolate cakes and tempting sweets in pink and red hues. Seeing these and the many adorable heart shaped cookies and cakes on Facebook and all my favorite blogs, I almost broke down and baked today, using a V-day themed blog post as an excuse to give in. Then I reminded myself that this is an austere time, a time to grow spiritually, a time for self-discipline, so I resisted.

Instead I decided to post this fish en papillote that the hubs and I made together last Sunday  A simple, healthy and romantic meal and a special day spent together.

Fish and Couscous En Papillote

After last Sunday's mass, we were thinking about where to head for lunch when the hubs suggested that instead of going to a restaurant how about going to the nearest Whole Foods to pick up some fish and attempt en papillote ( in parchment) cooking. "I don't know how!" I exclaimed. It sounded complicated, and the only similar thing I had seen my mother make was Meen Pollichathu where fish is cooked with spicy masala inside a banana leaf."We'll learn together." said he.

So we did. With guidance from Alton Brown, I was sous chef to the hubs for the afternoon as we sipped wine and cooked together, packaging the fish with herbs, vegetables and couscous in  a sheet of parchment paper. It turned out to be very easy, didn't take much time at all, and was a lot of fun!  There was much drama, excitement and anticipation at the escaping steam when the hubs cut open the package in the end. 

One of the most delightful Sundays ever, and a fresh and delicious meal that although we devoured completely, we didn't feel stuffed, but rather left us feeling energized and light.

Fish and Couscous En Papillote
A tasty mess! 
The couscous and the carrots absorbed all the juices and flavors and the lemon and onions almost tasted like they were pickled and I found myself eating slice after slice.

I hope you have a wonderful day tomorrow, filled with love. The three of us are a little under the weather, and will most likely be staying in, but we plan to cook something special, maybe try something new, because this was so much fun!

Cod and Couscous En Papillote
Recipe adapted from: Alton Brown here


  • 1 cup couscous ( I would recommend that you don't skip this) 
  • 2-pounds cod fillets or whole red snapper, cleaned, head on
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus a sprinkling for the couscous
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small bunch fresh oregano ( we used 1 tsp dried) 
  • 1 small bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 whole lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup drained and quartered artichoke hearts ( we didn't use this) 
  • A few carrots sliced in half lenghtwise (optional but recommended)
  • 1/2 cup white wine 
  • 1 tablespoon butter
Special Equipment:
A Baking sheet 
Parchment Paper or aluminium foil ( do not use wax paper) 


  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Rinse and soak the couscous in cold water for about 10 mins, then strain and lay out on a plate, after sprinkling some salt.
  • Cut parchment paper into a 15 by 48-inch sheet, large enough in width to cover your baking sheet twice. 
  • Fold in half and lay on baking/cookie sheet so that it resembles a greeting card. 
  • Open the "card" and lay the fish on the inside layer of parchment so that you can cover it woth the outer flap of parchment.(As though placing the fish inside a greeting card.)
  • Generously sprinkle salt and pepper on the fish, on both sides of the fillets or if using a whole fish, inside and out. 
  • Place herbs in between the fillets or inside cavity of fish along with half of the sliced lemons, and half of the sliced red onion. 
  • Arrange couscous next to fish on all sides. 
  • Place minced garlic, and remaining lemon and red onion on fish and lay tomatoes, carrots and artichoke hearts around outside of couscous, creating what Alton describes as somewhat of a wall. 
  • Cut up the butter into small chunks and place them over the fish. 
  • Pour wine over fish and cover with the outer flap of parchment
  • Fold along the edges of parchment paper, to create a package and staples the edges if necessary, so that it won't leak. 
  • Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Carefully cut open, keeping away from the escaping steam.
Make sure to serve enough couscous which absorbs all the juices. Along with the carrots it was perhaps my favorite part about this dish.


  1. Sounds like a delicious meal! And how awesome is giving up sweets for lent! that's cool! so much better than giving up things like meat/fish which are not too particular abt anyway!

    1. Yes Sarah I love veggies so giving up meat won't be too much of an issue. Sweets will be much harder, hoping I can keep it up! Thought writing it down here will keep me more determined!

  2. Delicious the views....

  3. Petty anxieties...I can relate. I am a worry wart of the highest order, been this way since childhood. It's not until I cast my cares away at church or during quiet moments that I am able to get a handle on my fears and realize that my worries are only as big as I make them. I enjoyed reading this post and well done on this beautiful dish! :)

    1. Jean I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed this post! I totally related to how you mentioned leaving behind your flaws at Church, in fact I think that thought triggered this post! And you are so right, worrying is so completely pointless!

  4. this sounds delicious...... lovely clicks of the view...

  5. OMG! what a stunning pic! Drooling here...

  6. This sounds fantastic. I agree, my mom had to drag us when we were little, but as an adult it's a choice I love making. I always leave feeling renewed. Love the photos you snapped, it makes me wish I was in the city on such a gorgeous day. Have a lovely weekend, Sunday is right around the corner.

  7. A beautiful post, Rose, through and through. Lent is when I find myself reexamining my faith, and how well (or poorly, depending on the day) I am extending that to my children. Such a solemn time of year.

    I love cooking en papillote, I had planned to do so today, actually, but I know I will be doing it more often, on Fridays :)

    I hope you had a peaceful Sunday!

  8. Amzing pictures and amazing couscous recipe! Loved your blog!

  9. Gorgeous photos! Your fish presentation is beautiful!

  10. Cooking together sounds so romantic, Rose! I love en papillote, next time will try your recipe as we all love Couscous ( so much so that my lil one is called couscous, hehe).your en papillote turned out gorgeous!

  11. I love that you paired the images of God's gift to us (the world) with words about mass...beautiful. The recipe sounds delicious, and looks lovely and healthy :)

  12. I am still lazy about getting up to go to church, maybe cos my mom is with me to push me into it :) Loved the post....

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