Red Snapper en Papillote with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette


So many of us were warned as children that fish bones could kill you. Yet what a memorable, if not altogether safe, impression an entire fish makes at the table before being skillfully boned. Slipping citrus into the cavity and wrapping the fish in parchment before roasting ensures that its delicate flesh attains a level of succulence and gently infused flavor that it simply cannot achieve any other way.


For the Snapper

  • 1 whole (2 pounds) red snapper (or substitute black bass or branzino), scaled and cleaned

  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

  • ½ lime, cut into thin rounds

  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

For the Vinaigrette

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice (from about 3 limes)

  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

  • ½ teaspoon minced jalapeno chile

  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt


  1. Make the snapper: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place fish on one side of a 12-by-16-inch piece of parchment. Season cavity with salt and pepper, and arrange lime and 1/2 the garlic. Season outside of fish with salt and pepper. Sprinkle remaining garlic on fish, and drizzle with oil and lime juice.

  2. Fold parchment over fish, and seal by making small, tight overlapping folds along edges and ends. Transfer to a baking sheet, and roast until packet puffs and turns light golden, about 20 minutes. Open fish packet carefully. Fish should be opaque in center; if it is not cooked through, reseal parchment and continue roasting.

  3. Make the vinaigrette: Puree all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth.

  4. Transfer fish to cutting board discarding parchment. Debone if desired, and garnish with cilantro. Serve immediately with vinaigrette on the side.

Cook's Notes

How to bone a whole cooked fish: Using a sharp knife, cut through skin between head and body, and tail and body to the bone on both sides. Insert knife at tail, and cut along backbone to the head, keeping knife at an angle. Insert a spatula between backbone and top fillet and gently remove. Lift tail and backbone, and discard. Remove skin if desired.

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