Cilantro-Cayenne Catfish in Paper

Cilantro-Cayenne Catfish with golden beets & greens

Cilantro-Cayenne Catfish with millet, golden beets & greens


Catfish is one of my favorite fish, and it has a good rating from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program, meaning it is an environmentally responsible choice to reduce overfishing in the seafood industry.  Yet good quality catfish is somewhat difficult to find because most catfish sold in the U.S. are farmed, which means the fish are fed grain that is often mixed with antibiotics, hormones, chemicals, and other things that you generally want to avoid.  In addition, feeding grain to the fish lowers their Omega-3 fatty acid content.  Supposedly, U.S. farmed catfish are not fed hormones, so if you cannot find wild catfish, I would look for fish that originate in the United States.  Most health food stores, including Whole Foods, label the country of origin in their seafood department, and I believe that most supermarkets either already are or will soon be required to do so as well.  I buy my fish from my local farmers’ market, and recently they were selling “sustainably and responsibly farmed catfish,” so I thought I would give it a try.


This recipe is like the French preparation of fish “en papillote,” or, in parchment paper.  If you’ve never used parchment paper, it is a thin yet non-porous baking paper that you can find at your supermarket.  It seals in the moisture while baking for maximum flavor and juiciness and at the same time prevents food from soiling your cookware, resulting in a no-mess, easy clean-up. 


Things you will need:


Wild-caught or U.S. sustainably-farmed catfish fillets

1 12-inch square parchment paper per fillet

1 lime

1 shallot, sliced

Small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

Olive oil

Sea salt and cracked pepper

Pinch of cayenne pepper


First I cut the parchment paper into 12-inch squares and place them on the kitchen counter.  Rinse the fish fillets in cold water, pat try with a paper towel, and place them on one half of each paper square.  Drizzle with olive oil and fresh-squeezed lime juice, sprinkle with sea salt, cayenne and cracked pepper, and top with sliced shallots and fresh cilantro leaves.



Next, fold the other half of the paper over the top of the fillet.  Some cooks have a fancy way of rolling the edges to seal the paper, but I have an easier way – fold the edges a couple of times and fasten it with a stapler! 



Place the wrapped catfish fillets in a 9×13 baking dish and preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.  Bake for 12 minutes and remove from oven.  Transfer the fish onto plates and slice open the paper wrapping just before serving to retain the juices.  I love to serve fish over cooked millet – it deliciously absorbs the flavor of the fish juices and is an excellent complement to the meal.  (See my handy gluten-free grain guide for how to cook millet.)

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