Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Salmon en Papillote

We had some people over for dinner a few weeks ago.  They live in the neighborhood, and are also pug owners, so really how could we not invite them.  Heehee.  Actually, over the years that we've lived here, we've chatted with them more and more--they've passed the "they're not crazy test", so we decided to have them over.

This was one of the few times that we've had omnivores over for dinner, so I wanted to make some kind of animal flesh.  But I was too lazy to go to the farmers' market, and since I'm trying to be on this whole holier-than-thou kick to only buy happy meat (ahem, let's not talk about what I eat when I dine out--the phrases "hypocrite" and "double standard" come to mind (although I'm trying, I really am, but now I sound pathetic)), I decided that fish would be a good idea.  Unhappy fish just doesn't tug at my heartstrings the same way as do unhappy pigs.  Luckily the nearby grocery store has been making an effort to provide sustainable seafood.  Damn hippies.

My sister (the nutty one who has three pugs and makes her own pancetta) and friend must be on the same wavelength, because in the past few months they've both told me about salmon en papillote recipes.  The latest was from Dorie Greenspan.  Dorie, whom I love, has a new cookbook out, and my sister is roadtesting the recipes.  This one was a hit.

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

This recipe is for 2 people, so I gave everyone at the dinner party a TBS worth of salmon. Just kidding, I doubled the recipe.

  • 3 small tomatoes, halved lengthwise (okay, apparently "small tomato" means "grape tomato"--I made these with plum tomatoes and I was like damn! these tomatoes take up a lot of space!)
  • 16 basil leaves
  • 2 5-oz salmon fillets, skinned
  • 2 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced (this turned out to be a lot, and I probably ended up using the equivalent of 1 1/2 scallions or so)
  • ½ lemon, zested (again, this was actually quite a lot of zest and I didn't use it all)
  • 2 small thyme sprigs 
  • extra virgin olive oil
Behold the aromatics. Note glaring absence of salmon. Didn't want to cross-contaminate, or whatever they call it. Oh look at me trying to be all holier-than-thou again.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees if you plan on cooking the salmon right after prepping (as you'll see later, you can prep the salmon and refrigerate for up to 6 hours before baking).

Halve the tomatoes lengthwise.  Heat a few tsp of olive oil over medium high heat.  Sear tomatoes for about 3-5 minutes total, flipping halfway between (skins will be wrinkly and bubbly).

The directions from the cookbook said that the tomatoes should be caramelized.  Now I don't know if this is because I was using much larger plum tomatoes rather than the grape tomatoes, but in order to get them "caramelized", I sure had to make those suckers mushy.

The second time I made this recipe (for the guests), I tossed the tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper and a few time leaves and popped them in the oven at 450 degrees for just a few minutes (no more than 5, because they started to scream at me), and decided not to care whether they were caramelized or not.

While the tomatoes are cooking (via skillet or baking sheet), prep the green onion and lemon zest.
Purdy. And ready to rumble.

So the whole idea of "en papillote" (wow I cannot stop myself with the hoity toity stuff today) is that you're baking something in a pouch, to seal in the juices and make it all moist and yummy and juicy and delectable.

Take a piece of foil or parchment paper (I used the latter for the dinner party since it was better presentation) large enough to hold a piece of salmon and half of the tomatoes, side by side.

Build your ingredients slightly to the right (or left, if it pleases you), so you can fold over and seal the pouch before putting it in the oven.

Lay down about 5 basil leaves. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  The recipe calls for white pepper, which I suppose would look nice, but we have space only for one pepper mill in this house, and it demands black pepper.

Lay the salmon on top of the basil.  Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper.  Drizzle with 1/2 tsp olive oil.  Sprinkle half of the zest and half of the green onion on each filet. Drizzle on about a 1/2 tsp of lemon juice (the second time I made this, I also drizzled on some white wine--why not).  Top each salmon with a sprig of thyme.  The recipe also calls for laying on thin slices of lemon, but I felt there was enough lemony flavor with the zest and lemon juice, so I refrained.

Lastly, line up half the tomato halves next to the salmon.

Look at my gargantuan tomatoes.  No matter, one can never have enough tomatoes.  Have halves.  Haha I kill me.

Fold over parchment/foil and seal the edges by folding over and crimping the edges.  

If you are not familiar with this technique, you can watch the video at the end of this article.  Spoiler alert: calling it a "technique" is overkill, you can probably figure it out intuitively, or at the very least get it over seeing it done for 2 seconds.

Yay, happy little packet! You can make the packets up to 6 hours ahead and store in refrigerator.  Remove about 30 minutes before cooking.  

While the salmon was refrigerating, I made the side dishes.  I served the salmon with a roasted beet and avocado salad, and potatoes roasted on the stovetop with DUCK FAT.

For da beets.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and trim beets.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper; wrap tightly in foil and place on baking sheet.

Roast for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Remove, let sit until cool enough to handle, peel (the skins should come right off), and dice into large chunks.

Toss with vinaigrette (3:1 or 2:1 acid to olive oil with salt and pepper, all whisked together).

Shortly before serving, dice avocadoes, place them on top of beets, and sprinkly lightly with lemon juice.  I also tore up some basil for topping because I had it lying around. 

For potatoes: Clean about 2 lbs fingerling potatoes (for 4 to 6 people).  Heat large pot over medium heat; place in 1 TBS butter and a 2 TBS duck fat (or just use half and half butter and olive oil).

Throw in potatoes.  Cover.  Cook about 20 minutes or until done, shaking every once in a while to prevent sticking.

Back to the salmon.  Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Place salmon packets on baking sheet, and place into oven for about 10-12 minutes.  Snip open pouches with scissors or knife, and serve immediately.

I started digging in before I took a picture.



  1. ooh! I love the idea of en papillote. It's like a present on your plate.

  2. Your recipe posts always look so delicious, yet with a quality that makes me think I can achieve said deliciousness. I like it. I'm going to try your bucatini all'amatriciana (ooh more fancy words!) soon, as I have recently discovered I can eat pecorino romano. I'm allergic to cow's milk products, which means my life sucks, but with the introduction of the ability to eat goat and sheep's milk products, my life is slowly becoming worth living again.

  3. what gorgeous presentation! this has become our favorite salmon recipe -- even fish-hating husband likes it.

  4. This is the second recipe I've seen for beets that I think is do-able. I'll have to give it a try.

    That salmon looks amazing! :)

  5. Ok Mina, that is a fancy-pants dinner. I am super impressed! The salmon looks delicious and that beet salad is amazing!