I’ve long been a fan of the culinary technique of cooking en papillote. To cook in this manner, you enclose seafood or vegetables in a package crafted from parchment paper and then bake it at a high temperature. Food cooked in parchment paper remains moist thanks in part to the package capturing the steam from the cooking process. The en papillote technique is particularly effective with seafood and I’d happily argue that this is the easiest, cleanest, and most fool-proof way to cook your favorite fish.
Recently I’ve become a fan of this technique for another reason: it allows you to prepare your food ahead of time. When you think of make-it ahead meals you rarely think of fish. Fish, as a general rule, does not reheat well. And I’m not suggesting you reheat this dish. Rather, the beauty of en papillote is that the individual packages can be assembled well ahead of time. Maybe during those few minutes after breakfast when you find yourself with a little free time or during a lunch break.
Regardless of when you prepare the packages they can then be refrigerated until dinner time when putting dinner on the table simply means preheating the oven to 400 degrees and baking the packages for 15 minutes. This recipe for ginger-soy salmon over bok choy further simplifies things for the cook as a side of bok choy cooks in the same package as the fish. This makes for a light and healthy meal on its own although I like to accompany it with a side of brown rice to soak up all the flavorful juices.
Note that the one exception I have with the rule of making en papillote ahead of time is when I use the juice from an acidic fruit like lemon, lime, or even pineapple on my fish. Here you’ll want to assemble right before you cook as the acid in these fruits will begin to cook the fish in your refrigerator turning your plans of a baked fish dinner into ceviche. Happy cooking!
Ginger-Soy Salmon over Bok Choy – Printer Friendly Recipe
2 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, skin removed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 baby bok choy, trimmed, washed, and chopped crosswise into ½-inch slices
1 ½ teaspoons toasted sesame oil
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 (1-inch) piece fresh peeled ginger, cut into matchstick-size pieces
3 green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced crosswise
Garnish: toasted sesame seeds (use black sesame seeds for an especially dramatic presentation)
Special equipment: parchment paper, scissors
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and place a rack in the top third of the oven.
Mix together the soy sauce, sherry, granulated sugar, and half the minced garlic in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves.
In a medium bowl, toss the chopped bok choy with the sesame oil and the remaining minced garlic. Season the bok choy to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper; show restraint when seasoning with salt as you will also be adding soy sauce.
Cut out two large rectangles of parchment paper (about 15 x 18-inches) and fold them in half. Starting from the fold, trace the outline of half a heart with a pen (like you would make a Valentine in school) on each folded piece of paper and then cut out the heart.
Unfold the hearts and divide the bok choy evenly between the two hearts. Mound it on the right side of each parchment paper heart.
Place a salmon fillet atop each pile of bok choy and sprinkle with the ginger strips and green onions, dividing them equally between the two fillets. Divide the soy sauce mixture between the two fillets drizzling it over the top of each.
Fold one of the parchment paper hearts in half. Starting at the top, begin folding the edges down to seal the heart. Make sure each fold overlaps the next by folding the next edge over the previous one and creasing it firmly. Continue moving along the outside of the heart until you have formed an enclosed package. Place the package on a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining fillet.
Bake the parchment paper packages on the baking sheet in the top third of the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
Serve the fish in the parchment paper packet and have your guests cut it open at the table. Or, cut open the package in the kitchen and slide the fillet and its toppings onto a plate. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds for a little crunch and enjoy!