One aspect of eating local seafood is that our more underutilized species often come with a good story that makes great dinner conversation. Pompano is one of those fish. Pompano is the only fish we can think of that is tied to creating a method of preparation— Pompano en Papillote, or, baking fish in parchment paper. This method has branched out to now be one of the common ways you can prepare fish in the oven. While this technique works with a wide range of species, it was created by a New Orleans chef in the 1800’s with Pompano in mind.
Chef Jules Alciatore of Antione’s wanted to impress a Brazilian hot air balloonist on his trip to New Orleans. When baked just right, steam collects in the parchment paper envelope around the fish creating a balloon effect. It can work as an impressive presentation for you at home as well. Each guest receives their own little packet of parchment paper. When your guest cuts into the parchment the aroma from the fish and sauce is released. Viola as they say in French.
Like any other New Orleans specialty classic Pompano en Papillote utilized a creamy sauce of butter, white wine, shrimp, and lump crabmeat. If you don’t want to go this rich there are many recipes for a lighter wine sauce with herbs and vegetables or Asian preparation that can also deliver.
Why did he use Pompano? Most accounts say he chose Pompano for its medium texture and uniform thickness for even cooking. This is very true about Pompano. Here at Locals we also like to believe he chose Pompano because it was in season and the freshest catch available that day—the best way to ensure you have quality seafood that will impress even the most discerning Brazilian balloonist.