Pressure Cooker Fish in a Packet (Pesce al Cartoccio)

Al cartoccio in Italian, also known as packet cooking or by the French term en pallion is a way to steam fish in it’s own juices with aromatics and vegetables. Fish is delicate and needs protection from the turbulent workings inside the pressure cooker.
I actually wrap the fish in a double layer of oven paper and tinfoil. Some pressure cooker manufacturers do not recommend putting oven paper in the pressure cooker because it may obstruct the safety valves; and, you shouldn’t really put acidic foods directly in contact with tin foil. But the double wrapping means that you get a wonderful parchment packet for presentation, with the safety and security of tin-foil that makes the paper stay put and out of harm’s way.This double layer slows the cooking down considerably because the super-heated liquid or vapor in the pressure cooker do not come in direct contact with the fish. This means that you will need to cook fish wrapped in this way a little longer than the usual recommended time.

This recipe will work with any white fish. Instead of Grouper, you can use: California sea bass, jewfish, and cabrilla. Substitutes: striped bass OR mahi-mahi OR black sea bass (flakier texture) OR red snapper (flakier texture) OR pompano OR lemonfish OR catfish – thanks to Cook’s Thesaurus for this list.

If you like, you can substitute the acid of the lemon in this recipe with a dash of white wine, or chopped tomatoes and the starch of the potatoes with three tablespoons of instant cous cous or parboiled rice. And of course, you have free reign on what fresh herbs and spices you would like to use to make your own tailored recipe!

Pressure Cooker Accessories Pr. Cook Time Pr. Level Open
6 L or larger steamer basket 10-12 min. High(2) Normal

Pressure Cooker Fish in a Packet (Pesce al Cartoccio)
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 4 fillets of Grouper Fresh or Frozen (thawed & drained)
  • 1 Lemon, sliced
  • 1 White Onion, shaved into rings
  • 3 small potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 sprigs of Thyme
  • 4 sprigs of Parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  1. I like to measure out the width of my pressure cooker with parchment paper before starting. You don't want to finish your lovely packet and then discover that it doesn't fit in your pressure cooker! To do this, cut a long piece of parchment paper, lay your parchment paper over your pressure cooker, and fold it to fit about one inch (or 3cm) from each side - see photo. Now, you have your parchment creases are your packet "guidelines"!
  2. Use a mandolin on the thinnest setting to get the potatoes and onions really thin. Lay out your parchment paper, and layer the ingredients in the following order:
    Swirl of olive oil
    Single layer of thin potato slices
    Salt and Pepper and swirl of olive oil
    Fish Fillet
    Salt & Pepper and swirl of olive oil
    A couple of onion rings
    Lemon Slices
    Pinch of Salt
    Swirl of olive oil
  3. Fold your paper packet.
  4. Next, cut a long piece of foil and wrap the paper packet snugly inside the tin foil.
  5. Prepare pressure cooker by pouring in two cups of water, and the steamer basket. You can cook about two fillets at a time, or if using a tall pressure cooker, make a second layer using another steamer basket or trivet - just make sure that the packets have space all around for the steam to come in contact with and heat them.
  6. Close the lid and set the valve to pressure cooking position.
  7. Electric pressure cookers: Cook for 10 minutes at high pressure.
    Stovetop pressure cookers: Lock the lid, and cook for 12 minutes at high pressure.
  8. When time is up, open the cooker by releasing the pressure through the valve.
  9. Take out the packets and slide the parchment paper packet out of the tin foil onto individual plates.
  10. Serve with a pair of scissors or tear the paper open right before eating.

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