Basa en Papillote with Lemony Raisin Caper Butter


I had to be at work this morning at 5:30 am.  After a number of months I have realized that the hour in which I wake up has a converse relationship to how long it takes me to get ready in the morning, and as such I was awake before a tweet was even a twinkle in the sparrow’s eye. I left to go home about 10 minutes before 6pm.  Sometimes I wonder if my I should just pack up and go join the rest of my peeps in a field full of migrant workers somewhere.

I packed leftover curry for lunch and it leaked on my front seat.

It rained all day.

I stepped in foul green goose poop.

An old woman explained to me, in great detail, about the surgery she was having to her vagi-(LA LA LA LA LA I DON’T WANT TO KNOW LALA LA LA LA!!!!!).

It finally stopped raining at about 6:15 just as I arrived home.  Great, thought I!  I suppose that I should go for the jog that I’ve been putting off since…uh….oh whatever, I hate running.  I hate running.  If only I hadn’t made that silly drunken promise to Mike I wouldn’t be in this situation.  Sigh.  I dutifully strapped on my gear and wandered outside.  Mike and his sister (who also happens to be training for a half-marathon…damn athletic people!) had suggested that the best way for me to get ready for my run was to train to the distance, not for speed.  Today was exactly the second time (ever in my life, if I were to be honest) that I set out to try and lumber my heft around the neighborhood for 5 kilometers.  When I was exactly halfway through my painful new route it started to rain.

Then I heard the bullhorns of hell start sounding just down the road.  “TINA!!!  HEY, HEY TINA!!  IS THAT YOU?  HEY TINA!!”  Oh good.  Look who it is.  One of my favorite ex-customers from those glory days as a barmaid.  He can be a nice enough fellow, for the most part, but I still haven’t forgiven -or forgotten- the time he came in on a Thursday night with his 19 year old ‘Foster Daughter’ and proceeded to make out with her for over an hour.  I wasn’t even wearing an iPod, so I couldn’t pretend I didn’t hear him.  It took me almost 10 minutes to extricate my sweaty, undignified, panting self from the rambling and awkward conversation.  On the bright side, bolting away from that wretched man put a bit of wind into my previously deflated sails.

And then I got attacked by a dog.  No, really. A DOG ATTACKED ME.  Worse yet, I thought he was cute with his wagging tail and his chubby little 60 pound body …until Cerberus leapt at me and the jaws of fate clamped down squarely on my (apparently succulent) hip.  I limped the rest of the way home and Mike just finished putting Polysporin on the part where he broke through skin.  I have a bag of frozen peas propped against the wound which will hopefully only turn a mottled shade of purple within the hour.  Today’s humiliations will just never end.

So you know what?  Screw the sake steamed spa-food style fish that I was going to make tonight.  I’M EATING BUTTER.

Basa en Papillote with Lemony Raisin Caper Butter

Serves 4

  • 2 whole Basa filet, about 1.5 lb *

Raisin Caper Butter

  • 1/4 cup salted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 1 lemon (1 tsp zest)
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • salt and pepper to taste

* Cooking fish in parchment paper is perfect for tender and fragile fish filets or any kind of a skinless filet which might otherwise not hold together.  It’s also a rather forgiving technique as it’s much harder to accidentally overcook your fish.  


Preheat your oven to 450ºF.

Being a butterball myself, I’ve made a lot of compound butters in my day.  What can I say, I’m a fan of dairy fat.  The thing about compound butters though, is that they LOOK so deliciously simple to make but then after you’ve spent half an hour beating with your spatula, trying DESPERATELY to incorporate Chardonnay into your honeyed shallot butter, the whole ‘compound butter’ routine rapidly loses it’s appeal.  I say, drink the wine and melt the butter – your chicken fricasse won’t care..  

Then again, when push comes to shove all that a compound butter really is can basically be summed up as:  Butter With Stuff.  Yup.  That’s right.  Butter with stuff.  That said, spare the arm without spoiling the butter, and just do it in a small food processor.  Chop the clove of garlic into manageable pieces and then blend it with the butter until it’s fully incorporated and no big chunks remain.  Add the raisins, capers, dried tarragon and 1 tsp of lemon zest.  Pulse the  mixture for about 1 minute, or until the raisins and capers are in small chunks (but not pureed!  Oh god, perish the thought!) of an only moderately delicate nature.

You will only end up using about 1/2 of the butter on the fish, but save the rest for another use….more about that soon!


Rinse the fish filets and pat them dry with paper towel.

Okay, so I’m trying to focus here but REALLY I’m still very pissy about the fact that I got attacked by a dog.


Cut the lemon (don’t worry, it’s only naked on one side!) into thin slices, each no more than 1/8 inch thick.  You will need 8 slices altogether.


Cut 4 pieces of parchment paper, each one about 12″ long.  Place the fish just slightly off center and lay 2 lemon slices on top.  Put a generous dollop (about 1 tbsp) of the raisin caper butter smack in the center and sprinkle the lot with some salt and freshly ground pepper.


Fold the parchment paper in half so that the edges meet.  Starting on one end, roll the parchment paper up over and over until it takes on a tube like shape.  Roll it in until you’re only a scant 1/2 ” away from the filet, and then start to turn it as you roll so that the seam forms a curve.


Continue rolling and turning until you have a tightly sealed packet.  Twist the ends a bit to make sure that they’re secure.


Place the 4 parchment packages on a baking sheet and tuck them into the center of your pre-heated oven for 10 – 12 minutes.  If you have a thinner filet, like sole or trout, 8-9 minutes will be sufficient.  Sadly, when you cook in parchment paper (aka en Papillote) there is no way to tell if your meal is ready without opening the package.  But…but you CAN’T just go around opening packages all willy-nilly, because half the magic is in cutting through the crisp paper exterior at the table and letting that glorious first waft of fragrant steam tickle your nose.


Raisins and capers may seem like a strange pairing if you’ve never put the two in a room together and let them go at it.  However, raisin and caper sauces, stuffings and salads can be found in cuisines as disparate as Irish and Italian.  And hey, you like Moroccan food, don’t you?  Well I certainly do, and how different is a raisin and caper pairing from a chicken tagine with green olives and a raisin studded couscous?  See?  And if nothing else can convince you here, just remember:  butter.  Trust the butter.  It won’t let you down.


As an homage to the nouveau Irish characteristic pairing of raisins and capers, we served this with a Colcannon style mash of brussel sprouts and potatoes seasoned with nutmeg and flavored with…..butter.  Oh, and my favorite asparagus.  Look at how darling those little spears are!  They’re just as twisted as my crooked little heart.


Raisins and capers and butter, oh my!  And no, I don’t feel guilty.   And yes, I’m still mad about the dog.


So is there anything to do with the leftover lemony raisin caper butter, right?  Good news – the answer is a resounding YES!!  Maybe you would like to try one of these options:

– melted on steamed broccoli with a sprinkling of toasted almonds

– melted on steamed cauliflower with a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts

– Spread on an openfaced sandwich with some grilled chicken and melted gouda.

– Spread on grilled bread for a sweet and savory garlic loaf.

– Mixed with breadcrumbs and stuffed into artichokes

  • bruleeblog

    I’m in awe that you made dinner instead of saying screw it and ordering a pizza!

  • _ts-eatingclubvancouver

    You need CESAR MILLAN, the Dog Whisperer on your side!

  • Jacquie

    You are awesome for making dinner after such a day.

    Also, that is one of my favorite type dinners always. I never thought of using brussel sprouts with colcannon (It’s added to the list). Also, asparagus has been pretty good this year so we’ve been eating a lot of it. And parchment baked fish with capers, lemons, parsley, and butter is a great fancy-looking dinner. Because I’m lazy, I’ll try and steam veggies with the fish.

    What kind of fish is Basa? It sort of looks like a non-fatty white fish like a rock cod. (I am a fish nerd of the highest order.)

  • lo

    Something like this definitely beats take-out.
    Truth is, I think everything is better when cooked in a pouch.

    I also love to mash my brussels sprouts around in my mashed potatoes, so it’s a wonder I never put them together as a sort of colcannon. Lord knows we eat enough colcannon around our house.

  • Margie

    I don’t think we have goose poop in Texas. That fish sure looks good, though. So, did you leave out the part where you strangled the dog with your bare hands?

  • Tina

    Bruleebog – Pizza would have felt like giving up…at least mounds of butter make me feel happy AND slightly vindicated. “You can take my spirit, but you can’t take MY BUTTER!”

    TS – aw, you’re much kinder than me. The whole limping way home I was muttering threats to myself that included sweet thoughts of several anonymous phone calls to the pound.

    Jacquie – steaming the vegetables with the fish isn’t lazy, it’s delightful!! Then they can soak up all that tasty juice and flavor. So I have to say it: I love that you refer to yourself as a fish-nerd. That’s why you’re just cool. Basa is a fairly firm fleshed white fish with a mild and slightly sweet taste. The flavor and texture can be likened almost to a thinner filet of sea bass or cod (you ARE good!) but Basa is actually from the catfish family. That’s okay by me though – bottom feeders are my friends.

    Lo – Think we could start a trend of Marsupial Meals? And yes, any variation on colcannon is going to be popular in our house too!

    Margie – consider yourself lucky. I loathe and despise geese, despite the fact that they’re one of our Canadian icons. I have a long and sordid history with Canadian geese which has culminated in several theories:
    – they say that the beaks are serrated, but I swear to god that geese have teeth and nobody has noticed except for me.
    – During migration they don’t go to Mexico, they actually fly back to the depths of hell from whence they came, only to emerge the next Spring even stronger than before.
    – the average Canada goose poops once every 18 minutes. Wait, this might not just be a theory…..
    In terms of the dog, I wasn’t really angry with the ANIMAL or even his owner (a little 8 year old boy with the cutest freckles ya ever did see!) but more just outraged at the fact that I was attacked in a most undignified and painful way. Closer to shaking your fist at the sky than plotting revenge.

  • Ivy

    I would swear I left you a message here last evening but coming to think of it I saw those lavender cookies which I bookmarked and forgot to come back. Strange thing I was looking for the recipe this morning to make them and couldn’t find it anywhere and I couldn’t remember that I saw it here at your blog (could this be the beginning of Alzheimer’s?). I ended up making Carob Cookies (big story).

    I love fish en papillote although I don’t know what fish basa is but it looks like painted comber we call it perca in Grece. Next time I shall try your raisin caper butter as it sounds delicious.

  • MarkSpizer

    great post as usual!