Two Years Ago: Lobster and Shrimp Gratin
Cooking something "en papillote" (pronounced en pa-pee-oh) is French for cooking "in parchment" - basically cooking in a paper pouch to seal in moisture. It's a great way to cook delicate fish because it seals in the moisture so the fish doesn't dry out, and at the same time it becomes infused with the flavors of the sauce. I've previously posted recipes for swordfish en papillote (with an Italian twist) and sea bass en papillote (with a Mediterranean theme) so I thought this Asian salmon would be a good complement.
It's not only flavorful, it's a very healthy dinner as well. I modified a recipe that I found online to include spinach for nutrition and color, mushrooms for flavor, and sesame seeds for crunch and because they look great. A mix of white and black seeds is especially attractive - you can find black sesame seeds at Asian markets and at Penzeys - but all white seeds would work also. Tip: you can usually find a large container of toasted white sesame seeds in the Asian section of your grocery store for much less than a small bottle in the spice aisle.
The recipe is really easy once you get the parchment paper technique down. Basically you just take a big piece of paper, fold it in half, and cut it in a folded semi-circle with one end slightly more pointy than the other. Open it up, pile the ingredients on one side of the fold, and close the other side over the top. Then you start make tight little overlapping folds to ensure the packet is sealed. Or, you could just use aluminum foil and crimp the edges which is easier, but not as traditional or pretty. If you plan to serve the packets at the table, parchment is definitely the way to go.
Sesame Salmon en Papillote
For the sauce:
Zest of ½ orange
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon peeled minced fresh ginger
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon honey
10-12 leaves baby spinach per packet, about ½ bag of baby spinach
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
7 ounces shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and thinly sliced
4 (6 ounce) salmon fillets, skinned
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup toasted white or black sesame seeds, or a mix
1/3 cup green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Parchment paper (or aluminum foil)
Preheat oven to 425d.
Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until blended; set aside.
Cut 4 large (approximately 16” by 12”) sheets of parchment paper. (If you don’t have parchment paper, foil works just as well but definitely transfer the contents out of the foil before serving.) Fold each sheet in half. Place the fold on the bottom edge nearest you. Starting at the right side, cut a large semi-circle with the fold as the spine and one end more pointed then the other. Open the paper and place ¼ of the spinach leaves, red bell pepper and shiitake mushrooms in a pile on one side, near the fold. Moisten with one tablespoon of the sauce. Place a salmon fillet on top; season with black pepper and additional tablespoon of marinade. Sprinkle the top of the salmon with sesame seeds.
Fold the other half of the paper over the fish. Starting at the flatter end of the semicircle (not the pointy end), fold 1-2 inches of the edge inwards. Work your way around the circle making a series of tight, overlapping folds to enclose the fish. When you reach the pointy edge, fold the last pleat several times and wrap it under the pouch. Repeat with the other three packets.
Place the packets on a baking sheet and bake for 11-12 minutes, depending on thickness.
Transfer the packets to plates and cut open. Garnish with green onions prior to serving. Alternatively, transfer the package contents to a plate and garnish prior to serving. Serve any remaining sauce on the side.