salmon en papillotePosted: August 15, 2012
Ok, let me acknowledge right away that this is perhaps not the greatest looking photo I’ve ever posted on this site. Maybe my photography skills are to blame, or maybe we can peg this one on the salmon – I’ve posted two other salmon recipes, and I wasn’t super happy with either of those photos either, however much I liked the food itself. So salmon may not be the most photogenic fish in the sea/on your plate – that doesn’t mean you should pass it up for more attractive-looking proteins!
Enough about the photo, let’s talk about the fancy title for this recipe. “En papillote” may sound snooty and French, but it really just means that you cook the fish in a parchment paper packet. You can add all kinds of flavorings – here we will use lemon, garlic, and oregano – and any kind of fish. The fish steams in its packet, absorbing the flavors from whatever seasonings you’ve used. Back in the day, I baked salmon inside a tin foil packet, and while that was kind of easier, going the en papillote route sounds way more sophisticated and gives you that snooty French cred. Two things worth considering.
If you’re worried about calories, this is a much lighter way to cook fish than sauteing or frying, and more exciting than poaching (which always kind of grosses me out, though probably just because I haven’t done it properly yet). And if getting your fish into a fancy parchment package sounds tricky and stressful, not to worry, I have step-by-step photos to accompany this recipe!
Salmon en papillote
This is really more a method than a recipe, so the ingredient quantities are vague. I’ll reemphasize that you can use all kinds of seasonings – fresh herbs, small vegetables – and other kinds of fish (see the link at the bottom for a version using tilapia). The first time I had fish prepared this way, I had halibut on a bed of skinny asparagus and thinly sliced potatoes. If you are adding vegetables like potatoes that take a long time to cook, you should parboil those first, until they are close to done but not quite, and then finish them in the packet, where they can soak up all the delicious juices!
Lemons, some sliced thinly, some cut into wedges
Garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Herbs, fresh or dried (I used dried oregano, because it was what I had on hand. Fresh herbs would have been better – basil or dill would be great here!)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Cut out as many sheets of parchment paper as you will need (use one per serving).
To assemble a package, start by placing lemon slices onto a parchment square.
Then place your fish filet on top of the lemons. Add whatever other herbs/seasonings you’d like on top of the salmon. Don’t forget the salt and pepper. I added salt, pepper, and oregano, and then placed the thinly sliced garlic on top. Squeeze one of your lemon wedges over the salmon (you could also use a splash of white wine here), and drizzle over a little bit of extra virgin olive oil. You don’t want to add very much liquid at all – too much can cause your packet to fall apart.
Now you are ready to wrap! First, bring two edges of the paper together, like so:
Then, fold the paper over at the top about 1/2 inch, and make a crease.
Fold the crease over two more times.
Next, you want to poke two holes in that fold you’ve created so you can hold it together with toothpicks. I found that my toothpicks were not up to the task – about five of them broke before I found a metal skewer (an instant-read thermometer, to be precise) to do this step. Once you’ve pierced the two holes and stuck toothpicks through them, your packet should look like this:
It all gets easier from here. Next, take those two loose ends and roll them up.
Once you’ve assembled all of your packages, place them in a baking tray.
Bake in the preheated oven until done. I seriously overcooked mine the first time (I left them in for 20 minutes), and the second time only baked for 12 minutes, which was about right. But cooking times will really depend on the size of filet you are using and how many other ingredients go into the package. You can always check them by opening up the packages.
Once the fish is done, you’ll have a little packet of joy to serve to yourself and any other guests!
I served mine with the patates sto fourno I wrote about yesterday, and zucchini sautéed simply with olive oil and a bit of fresh lemon juice. I also served with an extra lemon wedge to squeeze over the fish – I really like lemon!
Method adapted from The Amateur Gourmet (where you can see a video demonstration of how to wrap the packet if my pictures left you confused!)