Healthy Eating: It's in the bag — salmon en papillote
Fish en papillote is the elegant-sounding name of a staple recipe of classic French cuisine. Translated into English, it becomes the much less elegant-sounding — “fish in a bag.” By any name, however, this method of baking fish is a smash.
Typically, the fish is combined with vegetables and herbs, some butter or oil, and often some wine. All of this is wrapped in a piece of kitchen parchment and baked. The parchment keeps the flavor and moisture trapped inside during cooking, allowing the juices from the fish and the other ingredients to mingle and become a wonderful sauce.
And because the parchment is stick-resistant, the recipe requires very little fat. The small amount of oil in this recipe is there for taste and texture only.
In this recipe, the relatively few ingredients I've added to the salmon are in the service of the sauce. But let's say you wanted to make a whole meal in a bag, sort of like a high-toned TV dinner. In that case, you could add some substantial vegetables, for example sauteed mushrooms, steamed cooked potato cubes, blanched broccoli or carrots.
If you do add vegetables, they'll need to be pre-cooked. The denser vegetables — such as carrots and broccoli — simply won't have time to get tender during the 10 to 12 minutes of cooking needed by the salmon. Similarly, if wetter veggies — such as mushrooms and spinach — aren't pre-cooked, they'll release too much liquid in the packet and water down the sauce.
The only tricky part about cooking en papillote is that you can't see when the fish is done. If you slice open the bag, you risk losing some of the delicious sauce that's coming together. My solution is to start with the basic rule of baking fish: In a 400 degree oven, give it 10 minutes of cooking time for every inch of thickness.
When I'm ready to test whether the fish is done, I stick a very sharp, thin knife through the parchment and down into the fish. No or little resistance? The fish is done. Significant resistance? Bake it for a few more minutes. And by the way, this test works regardless of how you cook the fish.
Kitchen parchment — or even pre-made parchment-paper bags — is widely available in the foil and plastic wrap aisle. And by the way, it's also great for lining baking sheets when making cookies.
This recipe includes instructions on how to fold the paper to make a bag yourself, but if you can find the pre-made ones, grab them. I experimented with a pre-made bag while testing this recipe and discovered that it worked perfectly. You just layer all the ingredients in the bag, fold the bottom under to seal the package, and bake.
The beauty of this dish, besides its deliciousness, is that it requires very little preparation and cooks in no time at all. I invite you to take this concept and run with it, making new recipes based on whichever fish and vegetables are in season. And by the way, much as I love wild salmon, it isn't always in season. So check for sustainably raised farmed salmon, fresh or frozen.
Chef Sara Moulton writes this column for the Associated Press.
Salmon Baked in a Bag With Citrus, Olives and Chiles
Start to finish: 35 minutes
1 small orange
Four skinless 6-ounce center-cut salmon fillet pieces
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄3 cup pitted and chopped olives, preferably oil-cured
1⁄2 serrano chile, thinly sliced crosswise
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the orange and lemon in half crosswise. Thinly slice 1⁄2 of the orange and 1⁄2 of the lemon. Juice the remaining halves of both fruits.
Set a 24-inch-long sheet of kitchen parchment on a baking sheet. Fold the sheet in half across the short side, then open the folded parchment (like a book), leaving one half of it on the baking sheet. Arrange about half of the orange and lemon slices in a single layer in the center of the parchment on the baking sheet.
Sprinkle half the rosemary over the citrus slices. Set the salmon over the rosemary, then sprinkle with salt, the citrus juices and oil. Distribute the chopped olives and sliced chile over the salmon then top each piece with a quarter of the remaining rosemary and the citrus slices.
Fold the second half of the parchment over the fish, then crimp and fold the edges together to create a sealed packet. Bake — on the sheet pan — on the oven's middle shelf for 10 to 12 minutes, or until just cooked through (stick a paring knife through the parchment and salmon; it should move easily through the fish if done).
Cut open the parchment, discard the citrus slices from the top of the salmon, then place each piece on a serving plate. Spoon some of the olives, chiles, rosemary and juices over each piece and serve right away.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 440 calories (260 calories from fat), 29 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 100 milligrams cholesterol, 35 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 490 milligrams sodium
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Jerome Bettis to be enshrined in hall of fame
- Springdale trestle bridge deemed structurally sound
- Rossi: History beckons for Seattle’s Seahawks
- New Kensington woman struck by vehicle, injured
- January temperatures, snowfall unremarkable in Western Pennsylvania
- Tennessee quarterback Peterman considers transfer to Pitt
- Alle-Kiski Valley deemed medically underserved
- Westmoreland museum spotlights artist John Kane’s late-in-life fame
- Suggestions are aplenty on what Penguins need to break through
- Central Catholic safety Petrishen to sign with Penn State
- Burrell honors sports heavyweight Butch Liput with scholarship