You’ll love the aroma of the dish that you make “en papillote.” “En papillote” is the term used by French cooks to describe food cooked in tightly sealed packets of parchment paper. There are taste benefits, health benefits and presentation benefits for cooking this way. Since the food is sealed in a packet, it needs very little oil or additional fat to result in a flavorful dish. Though this method works with other foods such as vegetables and meats, I like using this type of baking with fish. Fish can easily dry out when baked and lots of calories are added when fried. The en papillote method keeps it very moist and when opened there is a wonderful aroma of the various spices and herbs that you’ve added.
So how to begin. Since parchment paper comes in 15-inch rolls, paper pieces of 15-by-18 inches is a good size to make packets for individual portions of fish — I like 5-6 ounce pieces. After you have put the fish in the center of the paper, put your favorite herbs and spices on it, and then close the packets and seal the edges with two or three small folds. A terrific recipe I’ve made many times with great success is Salmon en Papillote.
Salmon en Papillote
- 2 diced tomatoes
- 6 mushrooms
- 6 scallions
- 1⁄4 cup basil
- 6 teaspoons of olive oil
- 6 (6-8 ounces) salmon fillets
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Cut the parchment paper if not already cut.
- Drain diced tomatoes.
- Slice mushrooms and scallions thinly.
- Coarsely chop basil leaves.
- Place equal portions of tomatoes and mushrooms in the center of each parchment circle.
- Top each mixture with 1 fillet. Season it with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Top each fillet with equal portions of the scallions and basil.
- Lift the sides of the parchment paper on each side of the fillet, close them together, and fold over entire length of the edge ¼ inch in a series of long, thin folds. Repeat the folding process until the paper is tightly sealed, particularly the ends, and tuck under the fish.
- Place the packets on a shallow baking dish and bake them in a preheated oven for 15 minutes. The packets will puff up.
- Transfer the packets with a large spatula onto individual plate. Cut the tops open (or have guests do so) and serve.