Fish en papillote is the elegant-sounding name of a staple recipe of classic French cuisine. Translated into English, it means “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 up 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 you could make a whole meal in a bag, by adding some substantial vegetables, such as sautéed mushrooms, steamed cooked potato cubes, blanched broccoli or carrots.
If you do add vegetables, they’ll need to be pre-cooked.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. In a 400 F 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 right through the parchment and down through the fish.
No or little resistance? The fish is done. Significant resistance? Bake it for a few more minutes.
Kitchen parchment — or even pre-made parchment paper bags — is widely available in the foil and plastic wrap aisle. And 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 well. You just layer all the ingredients in the bag, fold the bottom under to seal the package, and bake away.
Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks, including “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.”
Salmon Baked in a Bag With Citrus, Olives and Chilies
Serves 4. Recipe is by Sara Moulton.
1 small orange
1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary
Four skinless 6-oz. center cut salmon fillet pieces
2 tbls. extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄3 cup pitted and chopped olives, preferably oil-cured
1/2 serrano chili, thinly sliced crosswise
1. Heat oven to 400 F.
2. Cut orange and lemon in half crosswise. Thinly slice ½ of the orange and ½ of the lemon. Juice the remaining halves of both fruits.
3. 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.
4. Sprinkle half the rosemary over the citrus slices. Set the salmon over the rosemary, then sprinkle with salt, the citrus juices and oil. Top each piece of salmon with a quarter of the remaining rosemary and citrus slices.
5. 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 10-12 minutes, or until just cooked through.
6. 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, chilies, rosemary and juices over each piece.
Nutrition information per serving: 440 calories (260 calories from fat = 59 percent of total calories); 29 grams fat (5 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 100 milligrams cholesterol; 9 grams carbohydrate (2 grams fiber; 5 grams sugar); 35 grams protein; 490 milligrams sodium.