These fresh Cod Asparagus and Fennel Packets scream spring and summer! They’re laced with lemon, topped with aromatic thyme and dill, and spiked with dry vermouth. Great flavors in petite packages that are also gluten-free and on the dinner table in 45 minutes, start to finish.
Fish en papillote – in parchment paper – steams in its own juices as it bakes, and is a surefire way to have moist, tender, flaky fish. The Cod Asparagus and Fennel Packets pack a low-fat, high-nutrition punch that are easy and fun to make. Even better, it’s a great recipe for getting kids in the kitchen. My daughter, Elise, has a blast going through the assembly line of ingredients for building the packets.
When preparing multi-ingredient packets of any kind, the goal (and challenge) is to have everything done cooking at the same time. No one wants chewy cod with crunchy asparagus, or raw cod with mushy asparagus. Thankfully, asparagus spears come in different sizes. Here, the marriage of medium-size spears and 6-ounce, 1-1 ¼-inch thick cod fillets is the Goldilocks, just right scenario. We used wild-caught, Icelandic cod loin because the thickness is pretty uniform throughout the fillet. You can use any fish you prefer; however, dial the cooking time up or down depending on the thickness and density of the fish. Also, be mindful of the asparagus size you choose: thin fillets = skinny asparagus; thick/dense fillets = thick asparagus. Simple stuff.
With the toppings, the fresh, aromatic combination of anise-flavored fennel, thyme, dill, and lemon works perfectly with a little schmear of pesto and splash of dry vermouth. You can either grab a jar of your favorite store-bought pesto, or make your own. Check out our Cilantro Pistachio Pesto for inspiration.
A Happy Packet
When done assembling, the key takeaway when folding up your packets of awesomeness is they need to be completely sealed. No leaks. The fish and veggies need to steam in their juices to cook properly. If you’ve found parchment paper to behave like a petulant child and not cooperate when folding, aluminum foil is ok to use in this recipe. You don’t want to use foil with a bunch of highly acidic ingredients. The foil can react and leave a metallic taste behind.
When the packets are done, resist the temptation of tearing into them. It’s better to let the packets rest a few minutes, and open carefully to avoid a steamed fish facial. Garnishes of extra thyme, dill, and fennel fronds add a nice, finishing touch. Lastly, have warm, crusty bread on hand to mop up the juices. 🙂 Hope you enjoy!!
These fresh Cod Asparagus and Fennel Packets scream spring and summer! Laced with lemon, topped with thyme and dill, and spiked with dry vermouth.
- 24 asparagus spears, trimmed to 5 inches long
- 6 6- ounce , 1 – 1 ¼ inch thick cod fillets (about 2 ¼ lbs)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup store bought pesto
- 1 medium fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
- 18-24 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
- Zest of 1 large lemon
- 6 lemon slices
- ¼ cup dry vermouth
- Salt and pepper
- 6 large squares of parchment paper or aluminum foil
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place 4 asparagus spears in the center of each parchment or foil square. Place a fillet on top of the asparagus. Coat each fillet with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread 2 teaspoons of pesto on each fillet. Top fillets with about a ¼ cup of fennel slices, 3-4 sprigs of thyme, and 1 teaspoon dill. Divide the lemon zest evenly among the fillets. Next, top each with 1 lemon slice and 2 teaspoons vermouth. Season again with salt and pepper. Fold up parchment or foil and seal edges to enclose completely. Transfer packets to a large, rimmed baking sheet. (Packets can be made 4 hours ahead. Chill. Remove from refrigerator 30-45 minutes before baking.)
Bake packets in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Let them rest 5 minutes before serving. Transfer packets to plates. Be careful opening due to hot steam. Garnish with fennel fronds, and serve with crusty bread to mop up juices, if desired.
*Recipe adapted from several sources