Someone dear to me recently told me if a dish couldn’t be cooked in 30 minutes or less they probably would never make it. I’m sure there is a need for an intervention for such thoughts towards cooking but I love her dearly so I’ll let this slide. If you resemble this remark and in all honesty at some point in time we all do, then this is a great dish for you. Cooking en papillote is simply French for, well – cooking in parchment paper. Quick and simple. And yes, you can do it.
I discovered this method of cooking years ago when I was asked if I would cater a working lunch for a dozen people… and they wanted salmon. This dish starts with fresh center-cut salmon that is brushed with buttery olive oil then layered on a bed of fresh spinach.
Aromatics of fennel and shallot are added then brightened with citrus. To finish, top with slices of fresh orange and fennel fronds. A handful of fresh ingredients and that’s it!
Seal everything together in a pouch of parchment paper and in less than 20 minutes you have a delectable, succulent piece of salmon with tender vegetables.
And if you want to prepare the salmon in advance, just use foil instead of parchment – it holds up better to the juice from the citrus. Lightly spray the foil with a cooking spray to prevent the spinach and salmon from sticking. You can assemble the pouches and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. When you’re ready for dinner, pull the pouches from the fridge and let them rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes. This will take the chill off the salmon so it cooks evenly.
This recipe is for four but can easily be adjusted for a party of one or a party of twelve! Serve the salmon directly from the pouches or remove and plate with a side of couscous. Easy and wonderful!
Salmon and Spinach – En Papillote
4 center cut salmon fillets, skin removed if desired
4 cups fresh spinach
1 large shallot, sliced thin – about ½ cup
1 fennel bulb, cored and sliced thin, about 1 cup; fronds reserved
2 large oranges, sliced
4 teaspoons orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
Lay out four sheets of parchment paper, each about 20” long. Place 1 cup of the fresh spinach on half of the parchment, leaving enough edge for folding. Top with the sliced shallot and fennel, dividing evenly between each pouch. Sprinkle each with 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Drizzle 1 teaspoon orange juice of each.
Place the salmon fillet on top of the bed of spinach and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle each fillet with 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.
Top the fillets with 2-3 slices of orange; layer fennel fronds across the top of the oranges.
Fold the other half of the parchment paper over the salmon and spinach. Starting at the corner, fold pleats in the paper to close the paper around the salmon.
Place the pouches on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 400-degrees for 18 minutes. (15 minutes if you like the salmon a bit pink in the center.)
Dinner in less than 30 minutes!