If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you can tell that I'm drawn to one pot meals. Although there are times when I'm up for a square meal made up of a protein, a starch, a vegetable...and a sink full of dishes, by and large, I like combining ingredients into one vessel and seeing how they meld together to create something new - perhaps something even greater than just the sum of its parts.
This is such a dish. I "heart" Salmon en Papillote (ok, that was lame...). Taken from one of Alton Brown's uses of this versatile cooking method, fish was placed on a bed of vegetables and steamed in a little pouch for one. The end result was colorful, aromatic, tasty, and fun to eat! The pouch can go straight from kitchen to table, and I've got to tell you: it's oddly satisfying to rip open your own dinner...sort of like digging through a Cracker Jack box for the prize.
You can see in the recipe below that the recipe is built for a 1-inch fillet of fish. I substituted shrimp (I had some frozen in my freezer that I wanted to get rid of), but I do not recommend that you follow my lead in this instance. Shrimp cooks too quickly, and with a fillet, the vegetables and fillet will be finished cooking at the same time.
Salmon en Papillote
from Alton Brown
1/3 cup each of the following: fennel, leeks (whites only), and carrots
1/3 cup snow peas (no chopping here, nice!)
1 tsp salt
pinch of pepper
pinch of ground coriander
8 oz. salmon fillet (ignore the shrimp in these photos!)
1 orange cut into wedges with pith removed
1 tsp dry vermouth (I didn't have any, so I subbed in white wine and it was fine)
1. Prep everything first - you'll thank me later (take advantage of chopping momentum). For the carrots, I cut them into planks, and then cut those planks into thick matchsticks. You don't need to achieve perfection here, but you do need uniformity for everything to cook in the same amount of time. With regard to the orange, he's looking for the flesh of each orange segment to be exposed on each side. I'm not sure the way I did it was the most effective (or the safest), so check out this example of how to supreme an orange.
2. Take a 15 x 36 inch piece of parchment paper and fold it like a book. Draw half of a heart (with the folded side of the paper at the center of the heart) and then cut along that line with a pair of scissors. Unfold to reveal a heart-shape...or should I say a pair of butterfly wings! ("Papillote" is French for butterfly)
3. In the center of one half, lay the fennel, leeks, carrots, and snow peas. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, and ground coriander on top. Place the salmon fillet on top of the vegetables, and the orange segments on top of the salmon. Sprinkle the tablespoon of dry vermouth or white wine over everything.
4. Fold and seal. The key here is to get a tight seal so that the steam produced from the juices of the fruits, vegetables, and vermouth will stay inside the pouch and cook the salmon. Start at the top of the heart. Take an inch-long stretch of the paper and fold it over about 1/4 inch. Then, take the next segment of paper and fold, taking out some insurance by having that fold overlap the first fold and so forth.
5. Place on a microwave safe plate and microwave on high for 4 minutes, or until the salmon reaches 131F. Open carefully and enjoy!
Once you try this, I think you'll find that the recipe is easy to riff. For example, swap in asparagus or bell peppers or chicken. Don't have parchment paper? At the suggestion of that Canadian chef who traveled around in an RV shaped like a toaster (does anyone remember The Surreal Gourmet?), I once tried something like this by using a brown paper bag (lunch sized), smearing it in olive oil, filling it, sealing it, and then baking it in the oven. If you do try a new variation, let me know!