In the Kitchen with Tina Miller

Preparing Fish en Papillote.


Editor’s note: This article is the first in a series called “In the Kitchen with…” Each month we’ll meet up with an Island chef or foodie as they prepare a recipe we will share with you. 

Of course, we’ll have to taste the end result, you know, just to make sure it’s good. As the saying goes, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. First up in our series is Tina Miller, who cooked up a delectable dish called Fish en Papillote.

Not everyone is a fan of fish. For those of us who love fish, however, Fish en Papillote is dreamy. According to, en papillote is French for “in paper” and is pronounced ahn-pa-pee-yawt — to bake fish inside of a pouch made of folded parchment paper.

“When people hear the word ‘papillote,’ they think the recipe will be complicated, but it’s so simple,” Miller said. “You literally just get all your ingredients together, layer it in parchment paper, throw it in the oven and you’re done.”

Miller isn’t simply a good cook. She’s an established chef. She is a co-editor of Edible Vineyard magazine and wrote a cookbook with Christine Matheson called “Vineyard Harvest,” which is chock full of recipes and photos taken by Island photographer Alison Shaw. Essentially, the essence of “Vineyard Harvest” is that although the Island can be perceived as a summer place for the wealthy, it’s also a place where life can be simple and pure — exemplified by fresh, local produce and fish, prepared with minimal fuss.

Miller was raised on the Vineyard and is the daughter of one of the founders of the Black Dog Tavern. “I grew up in the business. After high school, I started working in restaurants and eventually worked my way into the kitchen,” Miller said. “Working in restaurants is a great experience. If you’re a hard worker, a good listener, and have some autonomy, you can move up quickly. Restaurant work teaches you so much. You have to work as a team, have empathy for others, deal with the public, and let things go. Restaurant experience will make you a better employee no matter where you wind up working.”

Though Miller is self-taught and learned from other professional chefs, she is also a French-trained chef. “I spent a summer in France when I was 16 and loved it,” Miller said. “I went back when I was 26, and did a professional course in La Varenne.” La Varenne is one of the first professional cooking schools in France to offer instruction in French and English, and accredited, professional culinary degrees.

Miller retired from professional cooking in 2018, and now enjoys preparing meals for her family. I went to her West Tisbury home, where she talked me through the steps of making Fish en Papillote. Her two dogs, Harlow and Hubie, muddy-pawed and excited, joined us.

“My jam has always been to focus locally — both on-Island farmers who grow the food and the people who create the dishes,” Miller said as she sliced zucchini. “This recipe emphasizes the freshness of food — the vegetables and the cod. It’s what I call clean food.”

Sounded good to me. I’m always thrilled when anyone other than me cooks, so I was grateful to try anything Miller was generous enough to make.

“You’re going to make a pouch out of parchment paper, layer on your vegetables and put the fish on top,” Miller shared. “I par-cooked the potatoes for 3 minutes to soften them a little. You want all your ingredients to cook evenly. Take parchment paper and make a crease down the center.” For this recipe, Miller used gray sole, but you can use any fish you fancy. “I start my base by layering bigger things first — potatoes, zucchini, then the asparagus. I’m using spring veggies for this, but you can use any vegetables you like.”

Miller used plenty of olive oil and salt and pepper on each layer. “Take two to three tablespoons of dry white wine, pour it over the top, and place thinly cut lemon slices on the fish,” Miller said. “Now, create a pouch with the parchment by rolling up the corners and pinching them shut like you would with a pie crust.”

Luckily, because my stomach was getting loud, the dish only took 25 minutes to cook. Miller pulled the fish out of the oven and moved it over to the table. Taking a knife, she opened the pouch. A delicious-smelling warm steam rose up, and we sat down at the kitchen counter to try it out.

“How does it taste?” she asked.

“Ummmagoogoomamm,” I replied, “I mean, it’s delicious, and even something I could make.”

There was a little bit left so Miller gave it to me to finish. I didn’t argue and I’ll admit that I didn’t even ask if she wanted more. I just gobbled it up.

Fish en Papillote
Fish and veggies can be varied, but things that matter: Fresh, not frozen, good ingredients. Good olive oil. You can use butter if that’s your thing. Fresh thyme would also be great. Layering carefully so things will stay upright. Seal and crimp parchment tightly so liquids stay in.

Fluke, flounder, sole, halibut, or cod 6-8 oz. per person
Three or four baby yellow or red potatoes, sliced, not too thin, maybe 1/16th of an inch

Boil water, add salt, add sliced potatoes, stir to separate, and cook for 3 minutes. Do NOT overcook. Drain and rinse to stop cooking. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Combine in a bowl:

1 leek, halved, rinsed, and sliced
1 small shallot, peeled, thinly sliced
Fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade, set aside in a bowl
4-5 asparagus per person, woody stems removed
Peas, about 2-3 Tbsp. per portion. If using freshly shelled, blanch for two minutes. If frozen, thaw and be sure they are dry and not sitting in water.
1 zucchini, sliced about the same thickness as potatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh pepper
Lemon, washed well and sliced thinly
White wine, about 2-3 Tbsp. per portion

Layer in order: Blanched potatoes, sliced zucchini. Top with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Next: Asparagus, leek, shallot, and basil mixture, peas. Top with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Lay fish filet over top of veggies. Top with olive oil and salt and pepper, place lemon slices on top. Seal parchment, crimping carefully. With a large spatula, move each packet to a sheet pan. Add to a 400-degree preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Let rest for 3 minutes. Carefully move to individual plates and cut the parchment with scissors; be careful of hot steam. Serve in parchment paper. Enjoy!