created at: 2013-04-02

“Steamed fish and vegetables” sounds like diet food. (And unappealing diet food, at that.) Whenever I read it on a menu, I think of drab, pallid fish with no flavor and even less in the way of appealing texture. But take a cue from the French: steaming can be sophisticated.

In French, en papillote means to cook something in parchment. It involves wrapping the food item in parchment, often with vegetables, herbs, and flavored butter, and then baking it in the oven. The enclosed pouch creates a steamed environment that keeps the meat moist and combines all the natural flavors. It’s healthy food, but certainly not what you think of as diet food.

Cooking something en papillote is also incredibly easy. There’s no precooking before you put everything in the pouch, and you can add more or less of any herb or vegetable based on your taste. And best of all, it’s more or less a one-dish meal.

Make it before sunset and you’ve got a tasty kosher for Passover meal. Make it after sunset and you’ve just got a tasty meal.

Salmon en Papillote

Serves 2

You’ll need parchment paper or aluminum foil for this recipe.

2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoon thyme, minced
2 tablespoon sage, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 red pepper, sliced into ¼-inch strips
1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced into thin semicircles
½ fennel bulb, halved, cored, and sliced into thin strips
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon
2 5-ounce fillets of salmon, skin removed

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut two 12-inch squares of parchment paper (or foil), lie flat, and set aside. In a small bowl, stir together butter, thyme, sage, and garlic.

2. In a medium bowl, combine red pepper, leeks, fennel, oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mound an equal pile of vegetables two-thirds of the way down each piece of parchment.

3. Place one salmon fillet on top of each mound of vegetables. Spread half of butter mixture on top of each fillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fold parchment over vegetables and fish, until edges meet. Crimp edges together tightly.

4. Place two packets on baking sheet and transfer to oven. Cook about 18 minutes, until salmon is cooked through. Remove from oven and carefully cut open packets (beware of steam). Fold open parchment, squeeze lemon juice over fish, and serve.

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