Saturday, February 12

Saumon en Papillote

(Recipe 5 of 5 for First Officer Diaz's dinner)

Usually my life saver when pressed for time and last minute entertaining, this dish never fails me.  It's quick and can be presented several of ways  -- I usually serve it in it's parchment paper or aluminum foil, thus the term en papillote in French, giving the diner the pleasure of unraveling the dish while the steam escapes and the aroma, awakening your senses.
For beginners, the easiest to use is aluminum foil, cut into A4 or bond-sized sheet/s.  1 piece per person.  The shiny side always faces you as you lay it out on your countertop.
Layer your vegetables one on top of the other.  I chose to use thinly sliced carrots (half a medium piece per person) and enoki mushrooms (100 grams per person, usually a bunch) for an Asian twist.  Although almost always, I use carrots, leeks, and portobello mushrooms.  Remember to season with salt and pepper for every layer.  Top with a center-cut salmon, skin-side touching the last layer of vegetables.  Then drizzle with some sesame oil if you're using Asian vegetables and use extra virgin olive oil when using European/American ones.  Last but not the least, drizzle with freshly squeezed lemon juice.  You may also opt to pour a tablespoon or two of dry white wine (I omitted this part for The Young Tongue).  If you're a purist, you might as well use white pepper so that the dish looks clean.  But for play, I used black pepper to give the dish a bit of a contrast.
Crumple the foil on top first.  Ensure that there is a gap/space in between the salmon and the foil.  This will ensure some steam action inside, allowing the salmon to cook moist to perfection.
Then crumple the edges, ensuring that there is no opening where steam will roll out.  Bake at 180 degrees celcius for about 12-15 minutes (I use this gauge when the salmon slices weigh  200-250 grams per person).  I'm using an industrial oven so my timing and temperature are perfect.  More or less, it should take as much time in your home kitchen.  You can always take one out, open the aluminum and touch the fish.  It shouldn't be too soft in the center (that means it's still probably raw inside).
Once cooked, you have two options.  You can serve it in the foil, as is, allowing your guest to unravel the dish, enjoying the steam and the aroma as it escapes.  Or, you can save them the trouble of eating their dish in a foil (might make dark spots on your China), and assemble the items on their plate.  Just remember that this dish has to be served immediately.  I also finish off by placing cilantro for the Asian-inspired one and with dill for the European version, but today, I opted for oregano.  You can also play with different fish.  River trout and Chilean sea bass are very forgiving.