Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Parchment Paper Primer, and Presents for Everyone!

Wild salmon is just about gone, so if you're lucky enough to find some, I strongly suggest you try my version of "Salmon en Papillote," which translates to "salmon in parchment." This is a traditional French technique in which fish, vegetables (like the zucchini growing in my yard!), and seasonings are steamed in a parchment package. Although you can cook any meat "en papillote," it is especially well suited for cooking fish and seafood, keeping it moist, flavorful, and best of all, extremely healthy!

But what is parchment paper, anyway? Don't confuse writing parchment (made from animal skin) with the cooking parchment, which is made from cellulose (cotton and wood). It is amazing stuff! But who do we have to thank...why, John Mercer! John Mercer was born in Lancashire, UK, in 1791. He began his career as a weaver, then calico-printer, and then became a chemist. He introduced many new processes into calico-printing, but the invention for which he is best remembered is that of "mercerising" cotton. Mercerising (aka., mercerizing) is the process of treating cotton fibers with a caustic solution, making cotton fabric softer, stronger, lustrous, and easier to dye. Incidentally, the same experiments led to his creation of how to make cooking parchment paper, which he patented in 1850. This type of parchment paper is greaseless and non-stick, making it ideal in the kitchen. Thanks, John!

This delicious recipe is so fast and easy! Tear the parchment into about 16" sheet rectangles, per package, fold in half and cut into a half-heart shape, just like in grade school. The shape is not only traditional (which I love), but makes it easier to seal, than say a rectangle. Place the sublime mixture of sauteed julienned carrots, leeks, and zucchini in the center of each half heart, top with the salmon seasoned with a little salt and pepper, a lemon slice, a spoonful of white wine, and a drizzle of olive oil. (Feel free to experiment with your favorite flavors!) You then hold the edges together and start to fold and seal, from the top of the heart to the bottom in about 1" increments, in which at the end you just twist and fold the paper under. Pop the parcels on a sheet tray and in the oven, for about 15 minutes, and you're done! To serve, slide each parchment parcel on to each plate and cut open! You'll immediately be seduced by the fantastic aromas, to a moist delicious dinner, that has virtually no clean-up! It's like a present on every plate!

Salmon en Papillote

Serves 4


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and cut into julienne
2 small leeks, washed and cut into julienne
2 small zucchini, washed and cut into julienne
4 lemon slices
1-1 1/2 pound wild caught salmon fillet, skin-on, deboned, cut into 4 equal portions
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons white wine (serve the remainder with dinner!)
Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
Parchment paper


Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat, and gently fry the vegetables together until al dente (erring on the slightly undercooked side). Season with salt and pepper.

Cut or tear 4 pieces of parchment, approximately 16" wide. Fold each in half to form a wide rectangle, then cut half a heart shape from the top and around the open edge, so that when you open it out, the parchment will be shaped like a heart.

Arrange one-quarter of the vegetables in the center of one side of each heart. Set a fish fillet on top of each.

Season with salt and pepper, and top each portion with a lemon slice and a drizzle of olive oil. Add one tablespoon white wine to each portion.

Fold over the other half of each parchment, aligning the edges. Working from the top edge of the heart, make small, tight folds all the way around each package, in approximately 1" increments, to seal it, leaving plenty of room for the papillotes to puff up with steam during baking. Set on a baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes. Let sit a few minutes before transferring the packages to plates and serve.

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