April 07, 2015

Q: How can I cook fish without stinking up my house?

A: Stick with methods that cook the fish gently while simultaneously creating barriers that prevent fishy aromatic compounds from making it into the air. My techniques of choice? Cooking en papillote and baking with a crisp coating.

Cooking en papillote—a fancy-pants French term for "in parchment"—works for any fish and is pretty darn close to foolproof. All you do is place a portion of fish on a rectangle of aluminum foil or parchment paper and season with salt and pepper. Top with thinly sliced vegetables or flavorings—try fennel, leeks, or onion and lemon (see photo 1). Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil; add a dash of wine, sake, or stock and any aromatics you'd like—bay leaves, herbs, garlic; and fold the foil or parchment over and crimp the edges to create a sealed package. Place on a tray in a 425° oven for 10 to 15 minutes, and serve.

Flaky white fish like cod and hake are great baked with a crisp, golden breadcrumb crust. Start with homemade breadcrumbs: For 4 fillets, use 4 crustless white bread slices pulsed in the food processor until coarse crumbs form. Toss crumbs with a tablespoon of olive oil, and bake at 400° until light golden (see photo 2). Add minced shallots, garlic, and parsley. Dip fish in an egg beaten with salt, pepper, and a spoonful of Dijon mustard; coat with crumb mixture; and bake on a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet until crisp and cooked through.

Kenji Lopez-Alt is the chief creative officer of Serious Eats, where he writes The Food Lab, unraveling the science of home cooking.

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